Israel delivers first Iron Dome battery for US Army

The agreement to purchase two batteries was signed last year

Israeli officials at an event honoring the delivery of an Iron Dome battery to the US Army. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Israeli officials at an event honoring the delivery of an Iron Dome battery to the US Army.
A year after the Defense Ministry and the US Army signed a deal for two Iron Dome missile defense batteries, the first battery has been delivered.

A symbolic event was held with the Iron Dome production line of defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, in the presence of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Economy Minister Amir Peretz, head of the directorate of defense research and development Dr. Dani Gold, head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization Moshe Patel, Rafael chairman Uzi Landau and Rafael CEO Yoav Har-Even.

In August 2019, the US Army purchased two batteries off the shelf from Rafael, which included 12 launchers, two sensors, two battlement management centers and 240 interceptors.

The ministry said that the second battery is expected to be delivered in the “near future” within the framework of the agreement.

The purchase was made to fill the army’s short-term needs for an indirect fire protection capability until a permanent solution to the problem is put in place to best protect ground maneuvering troops against an increasingly wide range of aerial threats, including short-range projectiles.

The prime contractor for the development and production of the Iron Dome is Rafael. The MMR radar is developed by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, and the command and control system (BMC) is developed by mPrest.
The fully mobile system carries 10 kg. of explosives and can intercept an incoming projectile from four to 70 km. away.
It is able to calculate when rockets will land in open areas, choosing not to intercept them, or are headed toward civilian centers.

While the US has its terminal high altitude area defense antiballistic missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase, the American military does not have any short-range air defense solutions.

Praising the system, which is part of Israel’s multilayered missile defense system, which also includes the David’s Sling, Arrow-2, and Arrow-3 weapons systems, Gantz said that it has “a significant impact on the battlefield” and reflects the “strength” of Israel’s defense establishment, with some 2,400 successful interceptions since 2011.

“I am proud that this advanced system will also protect US Army troops,” Gantz said. “This is an extraordinary achievement for both the Ministry of Defense and for Israel’s excellent defense industries.”

Remarking on his visit to Washington last week, where he met with senior US defense and military officials, Gantz said that “procurement and information sharing in the field of technology” was also discussed.

“The completion of this agreement serves as further proof that the defense alliance [between the US and Israel] is based on common values and interests, which are stronger than ever,” Gantz said.

According to Rafael executive vice president and head of air and missile defense division Pini Yungman, a series of tests and demonstrations at the White Sands testing field has been carried out by the Iron Dome system, “tailored according to US requirements,” that intercepted targets chosen by the US Army.

The US Army earmarked over $1 billion for the project to take components of the system to integrate them with the US military’s integrated battle command system. A 2023 deadline was imposed by Congress on the US military to develop its own system or by law it will need to purchase additional Iron Dome systems from Israel.

In August, the world’s largest cargo plane, an Antonov AN-225, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport carrying US military Oshkosh trucks to be fitted with Iron Dome launchers purchased by the US Army.

While the Israeli officials praised the delivery of the first battery as being on schedule, in March, Gen. Mike Murray, head of Army Futures Command, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces that “it took us longer to acquire those [first] two batteries than we would have liked.”

According to Murray, the service identified several problems – including cyber vulnerabilities and operational challenges — during efforts last year to integrate elements of Iron Dome with the US Army’s integrated battle command system.

“We believe we cannot integrate them into our air defense system based upon some interoperability challenges, some cyber[security] challenges and some other challenges,” he was quoted by the Breaking Defense news site as telling legislators.
“So what we ended up having is two stand-alone batteries that will be very capable, but they cannot be integrated.”