WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to send two Iron Dome missile defense systems to Israel as the country continues to fight the militant group Hamas, according to a US Defense Department official.
The transport will help Israel’s air defenses after Hamas on October 7 launched a massive, coordinated attack — making it the deadliest day for Israel in 50 years. About 1,400 Israelis have been killed since then, and Hamas continues to fire rockets from the Gaza Strip.
“As we have said before, the US will provide additional Iron Dome support to Israel,” the official said. “As a result, the Department of Defense is currently engaged in planning to support the provision of US Iron Dome batteries to Israel.”
The US military purchased the two Iron Dome systems — manufactured by Israeli defense company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and co-developed by RTX — at the request of Congress several years ago. The purchase was intended to fill a gap in cruise missile defense while the Army developed a longer-term countermeasure to various air and missile threats. However, the service does not plan to buy more Iron Domes or integrate the system into its air defense architecture, Army officials told Defense News.
It has barely used the two batteries it has. Army personnel trained with the Iron Dome systems at Fort Bliss, Texas, before a system is deployed to Guam in late 2021 for a two-week exercise. Otherwise, the systems have sat with a unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
The official, speaking on background to discuss the transfer, did not specify in what arrangement the batteries would be provided, nor did he say whether the batteries would be returned to the US if they survive the battle.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently announced that the Defense Department is also deploying a high-altitude area defense terminal battery and Patriot air defense battalions to the region.
By providing Iron Domes, the US continues to widen the spigot of security assistance entering Israel. In the week after the Hamas attack, the Pentagon and Israeli officials announced the arrival of US aircraft carrying air defense supplies and ammunition. It has since expanded that assistance to include artillery fire, armored vehicles and precision munitions, according to Israeli and US officials.
The procurement effort is just one stream in a larger outpouring of American support.
An aircraft carrier strike group — led by the US Navy’s aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford — is already deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean. Another is on its way to the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, a Marine expeditionary force and 2,000 troops are ready to deploy within a day if ordered by the White House. said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.
Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and President Joe Biden have all visited the country, pledging continued US support. In a nightly speech from the Oval Office, the president asked Congress for more than $100 billion in additional security assistance, including $14.3 billion for Israel. Aid so far has not come on the condition that Israel limit civilian casualties.
But US officials in the past week have publicly called on their closest ally in the Middle East to obey the laws of war. As Israel fights back, about 5,000 people in Gaza have been killed so far, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by Hamas.
With more than 2,000 missiles intercepted, Iron Dome is one of the most statistically successful air defense systems in the world, said Tom Karako, director of the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
“This is a system built to defend [against] certain kinds of threats, especially the kinds of threats Israel faces,” Karako said.
Each battery consists of three main parts: a radar, a command and control system, and the launchers that launch interceptors. Each of these, Karako argued, will be useful to Israel, as the extra radars will increase its ability to detect threats, while more launchers and command-and-control technology will help defend more Israeli territory from missiles.
If the war expands beyond the Gaza Strip, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has tens of thousands of rockets it could fire, Karako said.
This week, the Israeli military said its aircraft had hit two Hezbollah cells, which the country said were preparing to fire rockets across the border.
Noah Robertson is the Pentagon correspondent for Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.
Bryant Harris is the congressional reporter for Defense News. He has covered foreign policy, national security, international affairs and US politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.
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