A Patriot missile battery has been deployed in recent days in the Central region by US forces taking part in the joint Juniper Cobra 10 exercise, which simulates missile fire on the Israeli home front.
Journalists were given access to the site overlooking a major city, and shown Israeli and American air defense crews who were working together to turn the missile battery into an active component of a multi-tiered air defense system.
"Since the Gulf War of 1991, not only have we made great strides, but our capabilities have also increased," said Col. Tony English, commander of the US 357th Army Air & Missile Defense Detachment, which is based in Germany.
English was answering a question about the ineffectiveness of the Patriot missiles deployed during the '91 war with Iraq.
He also commands a US garrison that is attached to the Forward-Based X-band Tactical radar in the Negev, which has a long-range missile detection system.
The missile battery deployed as part of Juniper Cobra contained Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) projectiles, which are designed to explode in the vicinity of an incoming missile. The US has also developed PAC-3 anti-ballistic missiles, which are programmed to intercept incoming projectiles by directly striking them.
"We are currently in the middle of the exercise," said Lt.-Col. Efi Shahak, commander of the Israel Air Force's 167 Center Air Defense unit. "The cooperation between us has been incredible."
Col. Shahar Shohat, commander of the 166 Center Air Defense unit, added that the US Patriot battery would be linked up to the IAF's chain of command during the exercise, and form part of an integrated multi-layered missile defense system capable of dealing with incoming missiles of various ranges.
The officers said the combined air defense program would offer the most advanced protection against ballistic missiles in the world.