In a recent conversation with Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Brad Bowman, the director of US Air and Missile Defense Brig.-Gen. Brian Gibson praised the Iron Dome system.
He said that the system should be ready by the end of the year. The US currently has two batteries of Iron Dome, which was developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
“You have US Army air defense soldiers on them as we speak. So, there’s a series of activities we need to complete en route to the end of this year, when we give them the thumbs-up – things that you can imagine, of training, testing, and integration of US communications, a few other things,” said Gibson.
Bowman is a former Army Black Hawk pilot and former national security adviser to US senators, and he moderated the March 15 session with Gibson. He is senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power.
The discussion, titled “The sprint to field the army force of the future,” included Brig.-Gen. John L. Rafferty, who heads Long Range Precision Fires for the the US Army, and also Willie Nelson, director of Army Futures Command’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ed Cardon also delivered introductory remarks.”
Gibson said that in the past 18 months the US has conducted a number of limited user tests for the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense System. The US has also bought and assessed two Iron Dome batteries. They have also designed and fielded and are now training the first maneuver short-range air defense battalion.
“Our two Iron Dome batteries will be fully employed across our army, whether that be inside of training and garrison or deployable around the world, based on decisions that get made and the environment we operate in. Our enduring competition for the indirect fire protection capability will have been concluded, and we will have initial capability, [with] several number of launchers and missiles in 2023.”
In three years it will be a different army, he argued. This is important because it shows the unique capabilities that Israel has developed and which have major ramifications for US forces. The US is facing threats abroad, such as rocket fire in Iraq caused by pro-Iranian militias, that can be stopped by Israeli technology or learning from Israeli successes.
Gibson said that “our choice we have today is to continue to use the Patriot missile system in ways that it can counter these more advanced threats, or to preserve it for the more advanced threats and to develop other capabilities that can take on some of these other threats.”
That’s what IFPC [Indirect Fire Protection Capability] is about. So, we’re going to learn more, not only with what we’re doing with Iron Dome this summer currently, but also as we go through this period over the next month.”
Iron Dome should be ready by the end of the year for US use. The US received the two batteries from mid-2020 to early 2021. Now there are US Army air defense soldiers working with them. Training, testing and integration of US communications systems are taking place. Gibson said that the US is not just going to park the batteries somewhere. “We’re going to use these things and use them with Army air defenders.” That may be using them globally.
Gibson praised the relationship with Israel and said that the current experience in the US has made the military even more closely aligned with the Israeli Defense Ministry and industry.
“Although our environments may be different, how we intend to employ these weapons systems and architectures for which we’ll employ them, there is a strong bond that this program has made stronger,” he said.