The world’s largest cargo plane, an Antonov AN-225 carrying US military Oshkosh trucks landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport Monday afternoon.While the cargo plane took off on Monday around 9 p.m. without the trucks, which will remain in Israel to be fitted with Iron Dome systems purchased by the US Army before leaving Israel.The Unit for International Transport of the Directorate of Production and Procurement in IMoD was also involved in bringing the Antonov plane to Israel, the Defense Ministry said. The Antonov An-225 is the largest aircraft ever produced with over 30 wheels, six engines and a wingspan of 290ft. The aircraft has a range of 15,400km. when unloaded and 4,500km. when fully loaded.The Ukrainian cargo plane landed at Bangor International Airport on Friday after flying from Ukraine. On its flight to Israel, it made refueling stops in Scotland and France before landing at around 5 p.m.The Defense Ministry and the US Department of Defense signed an agreement to purchase two Iron Dome batteries for short-term needs for an Indirect Fire Protection Capability of the United States Army in August 2019. They will be used to defend US troops against a range of ballistic and aerial threats.
It was reported in February 2018 that the US Army had asked Congress for $373 million to buy two batteries off-the-shelf from Rafael which included 12 launchers, two sensors, two battlement management centers, and 240 interceptors. Washington wanted to have them delivered by 2020. While the United States has its THAAD anti-ballistic 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.The system is built by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and Raytheon, which manufactures the American-made Patriot missile system. The radars are from ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of IAI.It carries 10kg. of explosives and can intercept an incoming projectile from four to 70km. away. It is able to calculate when and where rockets will land.Reports have surfaced that the US Army saw an urgent need for an interim solution to fill the gap in its defenses, especially in the European arena, 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.Also on Monday, Rafael announced that it signed a joint venture with Raytheon Missile & Defense to establish an Iron Dome Weapon System production facility in the US.Called Raytheon RAFAEL Area Protection Systems, a site location will be finalized before the end of the year and produce both the Iron Dome (consisting of the Tamir interceptor and launcher) as well as the SkyHunter missile. Both missiles can intercept incoming cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, and short-range targets such as rockets, artillery, mortars, and other aerial threats.“This will be the first Iron Dome all-up-round facility outside of Israel, and it will help the US Department of Defense and allies across the globe obtain the system for defense of their service members and critical infrastructure,” said Raytheon Missiles & Defense Systems’ Sam Deneke, vice president of Land Warfare & Air Defense business execution.