US Army carries out Iron Dome interception test

The tests are said to be a "critical step" toward fielding the batteries.

US Army carries out Iron Dome interception test. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
US Army carries out Iron Dome interception test.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

The US Army completed the latest Iron Dome Defense System interception test at the White Sands Missile Range, in conjunction with the Defense Ministry’s Israeli Missile Defense Organization (IMDO).

The tests were a “critical step toward fielding the first of two Iron Dome Defense System-Army (IDDS-A) batteries,” according to a statement released by the Defense Ministry.

In 2018, the US Army purchased two batteries from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, including 12 launchers, two sensors, two battlement management centers and 240 interceptors.

The purchase was made to fill the US’s interim needs for an Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IPC) until a permanent solution to the problem is found. The US Army plans to field both batteries to defend its forces within fixed and semi-fixed locations against cruise missiles.

According to the Defense Ministry, future variants to the program will include technology insertions such as directed energy, which will provide a critical protection capability against subsonic cruise missiles, Groups 2&3 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), and rockets, artillery and mortars threats.

 US air defense system with components from Israel's Iron Dome. (credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY) US air defense system with components from Israel's Iron Dome. (credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

The tests were carried out by US Army soldiers assigned to the 3-43 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, who detected, tracked and intercepted multiple cruise missile and UAS targets.

“The testing prepares the system for US operational forces’ use by ensuring it meets US Army safety standards, and that the system will effectively operate within the US AMD architecture,” said the Defense Ministry.

IMDO Director Moshe Patel said it was the second interception test since the two batteries were supplied to the US Army in 2020 and that the system “intercepted all the threats, while being interoperable with US systems.”

The tests by the US Army took place a few weeks before a series of tests by the US Marine Corps of its Medium-Range Intercept Capability (MRIC) prototype, which uses components from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

“The testing prepares the system for US operational forces to use by ensuring it meets US Army safety standards and that the system will effectively operate within the US AMD architecture.”

Defense Ministry

“It’s important to understand that implementation for the US is about the ability to integrate this system into our air defense picture. We need to integrate this into our US architecture, and to give confidence to our regional commanders that we can integrate this system safely into what they have,” said Maj.-Gen. Brian Gibson, director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team.

What is the Iron Dome designed for?

In use since 2011, the Iron Dome, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets, is an integral component of Israel’s multi-layered defense array. The Tamir interceptor is capable of intercepting cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, rockets, artillery and mortars.

The prime contractor for the development and production of the Iron Dome is Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which adapted the system to USMC requirements and associated testing support. The MMR radar is developed by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and the command and control system (BMC) is developed by mPrest.

“Once again, the Iron Dome has proven its effectiveness and operational capabilities in combat scenarios,” said Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Pini Yungman, executive vice president and head of Rafael’s Air & Missile Defense Directorate. “As part of the US Army’s operational training, American troops operated the system, which functioned with optimal effectiveness against a variety of threats and intercepted targets from different ranges.”

The fully mobile system, which carries 10 kg. of explosives, can intercept an incoming projectile from 4km. to 70km. away. It is able to calculate when rockets will land in open areas, choosing not to intercept them, or toward civilian centers.

The other defense layers include the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 systems, which intercept ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. It also includes the David’s Sling missile defense system, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles and medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired from ranges of 40 km. to 300 km.