US House to debate bill to purchase 2 Iron Dome anti-missile batteries
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US House to debate bill to purchase 2 Iron Dome anti-missile batteries

US military seeks to install Israeli-developed defense system to protect its troops against potential Russian and Chinese cruise missile threats

Israeli soldiers stand guard next to an Iron Dome missile defense battery in central Israel on November 14, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Israeli soldiers stand guard next to an Iron Dome missile defense battery in central Israel on November 14, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

A US lawmaker has submitted a House bill to purchase two Israeli-developed Iron Dome batteries and deploy them to protect American soldiers.

The proposal lodged by Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey) on Monday came four months after the Israeli Defense Ministry and US Department of Defense confirmed the upcoming purchase.

“Iron Dome is a proven defense system that will provide increased protection for our troops in the field. Access to this technology addresses critical gaps in our current capabilities,” Sherrill said in a statement. 

In January, reports said the US Army plans to buy two Israeli-developed Iron Dome batteries and deploy them next year as a first step in a new $1.7 billion project to both provide American troops an interim defense against cruise missiles and also explore long-term adoption of Iron Dome components for use in a major US air and missile defense system.

This decision came after the US military last year conducted an internal review of its short-range air defense needs to assess whether Iron Dome or a Norwegian or US-developed system was best suited to address a gap in defenses against potential Russian and Chinese cruise missile threats.

Confirming the sale a month later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said the deal was proof of the strength of the relationship between the two countries, before warning Israel’s enemies not to test the strength of the country’s “iron fist.”

A statement at the time said the deal was brokered for the US Army’s “immediate need” for the missile defense system but that long-term requirements would also be examined.

According to the Reuters news agency, the US Army said the batteries will be used to defend deployed US military forces against “indirect fire threats and aerial threats.”

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed US military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats,” US Army spokesperson Col. Patrick Seiber said in a statement, according to CNN.

Since 2011, Congress has provided Israel more than $1.4 billion for Iron Dome batteries, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. In August 2011, US-based Raytheon and Rafael — which are partnered on David’s Sling, a US-Israeli cooperative missile defense development program — announced an agreement to allow Raytheon to market Iron Dome in the United States. And in 2014, the US and Israeli governments signed a co-production agreement to enable some portions of the Iron Dome system to be produced in the United States.

The missile defense system has been used regularly in Israel since 2011 to shield Israeli civilians from rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip, most prominently during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.

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