The US Army has finalised a contract to purchase two Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system batteries as an interim measure to beef up its missile defence capabilities. This follows a congressional mandate for the US Army to deploy two new anti-air batteries by 2020.
Iron Dome system was selected as the US Army identified a capability gap- with no indigenous system capable of countering the threat posed by the cruise missile, rocket and artillery attacks. While this purchase is said to be an interim measure, it is understood that the US Army will assess the system to see whether to include Iron Dome in future defence planning for its Indirect Fires Protection programme, potentially paving the way for a permanent solution.
The Iron Dome short-range air defence system can neutralise targets at a range of 4-70 km. The system in Israel uses ten batteries, each including three of four Iron Dome launchers. Each launcher in the system can carry up to 20 Tamir missiles and houses its own radar.
Israel hopes to increase the range of Iron Dome’s interceptions, from the current maximum of 70 kilometres to 250 kilometres.
Iron Dome was declared operational and initially deployed on 27 March 2011 near Beersheba and it successfully intercepted a BM-21 Grad launched from Gaza for the first time on 7 April 2011.
The system claims a success rate of 90%. For efficiency, the system does not engage incoming projectiles expected to land in uninhabited areas.