Israel ships 2nd of two Iron Dome batteries to US, hopes to sell more

Defense Ministry says first missile defense system, delivered in September, is already being put to use by American military

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Iron Dome missile defense battery being loaded onto a ship for delivery to the United States in January 2021. (Defense Ministry)
An Iron Dome missile defense battery being loaded onto a ship for delivery to the United States in January 2021. (Defense Ministry)

Israel shipped the second of two Iron Dome missile defense systems to the US Army over the weekend, with hopes to sell more batteries to the Americans in the future, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

“I am confident that the system will assist the US Army in protecting American troops from ballistic and airborne threats as well as from developing threats in the areas where US troops are deployed on various missions,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.

In August 2019, the US agreed to purchase two Iron Dome missile defense batteries — each of which includes launchers and missiles made by Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd., a radar array made by the ELTA defense contractor, and a command-and-control center developed by the mPrest firm — to defend American troops from airborne attacks.

The first of these was delivered in September and was “already undergoing a process of implementation in the US,” Israel’s Defense Ministry said.

The second battery was put onto a ship over the weekend for delivery to the US, the ministry said, releasing video footage of the trucks that make up the system being loaded onto the vessel.

Israel is interested in selling the Iron Dome system abroad but without exposing the proprietary technologies that make it work, as such information could be used by the country’s enemies to beat the system.

In March, the US military raised concerns over the fact that it had not received access to this underlying source code, which it said made additional purchases less likely.

A spokesperson for Rafael told The Times of Israel in September that the company was actively negotiating additional sales to the American military and believed the concerns raised in March were no longer relevant.

From left, Rafael defense contractor CEO Yoav Har-Even, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Economy and Industry Minister Amir Peretz, Defense Ministry Director General Amir Eshel, and one of the main designers of the Iron Dome, Dani Gold, hold a ceremony in front of an Iron Dome battery that was delivered to the United States on September 30, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The spokesman noted that in August Rafael announced that it was partnering with the American defense contractor Raytheon to open an Iron Dome production line in the United States — a sign that further US deals were in the offing.

The Iron Dome system, which was first developed in Israel but was expanded significantly with US funding, has been in operational use for nearly a decade in Israel, principally against short-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, but also along the Syrian border. It represents the lowest tier of the country’s multi-leveled air defense array, joined by the mid-range David’s Sling, and the long-range Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 missile systems.

According to Moshe Patel, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Israel Missile Defense Organization, the Iron Dome has intercepted over 2,400 projectiles in its 10 years in service, which he said “saved hundreds of lives.”

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