In a first, troops belonging to the US European Command (EUCOM) have deployed the THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system in Israel as part of a joint drill between the two allies, the IDF announced on Monday.
The purpose of the tactical deployment of the mobile American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Israel is to “practice rapid deployment across the globe of complex systems, and to enhance cooperation with the IAF’s Air Defense Systems” the statement said, adding that “the IDF is working in cooperation with US forces in order to enhance coordination between the two militaries and to strengthen the ability to defend Israeli airspace.”
During the drill, the THAAD system – which is considered one of the most advanced systems of its kind in the world – will be added to the existing Israeli air defense systems which work against long-range ballistic missiles, giving the IDF an “opportunity to practice its integration in the IAF Air Defense Array.”
Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets; the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the David’s Sling missile defense system, which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium – to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km.
According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, the THAAD system will be deployed to Nevatim airbase in southern Israel and some 200 American troops will take part in the drill.
The THAAD was deployed to Israel as part of a drill, US troops who will participate come from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) and are stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, EUCOM said.
A statement by EUCOM noted that during the drill, the troops will work in various locations in Israel and “will refine network connectivity, validate requirements for the THAAD system, and will conduct multinational training and security cooperation activities with our allies to improve interoperability and build readiness.”
“The United States’ strategic airlift capability, combined with close cooperation between the joint service community, and strong relationships with allies and partners, provides the US military the ability to rapidly deploy forces anywhere in the world,” it said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the American deployment of “one of the most advanced systems in the world” testifies “yet again to the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security,” adding that “together with our defense systems, we’re even stronger [and can] handle threats, near and far, from all across the Middle East.”