US Marines plan to procure 3 Iron Dome batteries, nearly 2,000 interceptor missiles

Deal with Rafael partner Raytheon, expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, includes 44 launchers and US-made command centers

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Iron Dome battery is seen during a trial on the US military's White Sands test range in New Mexico in June 2021. (Defense Ministry)
An Iron Dome battery is seen during a trial on the US military's White Sands test range in New Mexico in June 2021. (Defense Ministry)

The United States Marine Corps plans to acquire three batteries of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system with nearly 2,000 interceptor missiles, according to an official notice of intent published Thursday, in a deal that is likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The deal would be signed with the US-based Raytheon, with which the Iron Dome’s manufacturer, Rafael, has a partnership.

An existing prototype system — known as the Marine Corps’ Medium-Range Intercept Capability (MRIC) — combines the Iron Dome’s launcher and Tamir interceptor missiles with a Marines radar and command center.

The US Marine Corps has conducted two successful series of tests with MRIC, in July and October 2022.

According to the notice of intent published to the System for Award Management site, which collects data on US acquisitions and contracts, the Marine Corps plans to procure three MRIC batteries with 1,840 Tamir interceptor missiles, 44 launchers and 11 US-made command centers.

Additionally, the Marine Corps intends to procure 80 Tamir missiles for the initial MRIC prototype, as well as “logistics and technical support” for all the systems.

The exact cost of the deal was not published but was expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

An Iron Dome battery fires an interceptor missile during a trial on the US military’s White Sands test range in New Mexico in an image published on July 18, 2022. (Defense Ministry)

Originally designed to intercept rockets, the Iron Dome has been upgraded and improved to allow it to also shoot down mortar shells, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

Under a 2019 agreement, Israel sold two Iron Dome batteries to the US, the first being delivered in late 2020 and the second in January 2021. Since then, the US Army has been working to integrate the system into its air defense array.

However, in March 2020, the US Army raised concerns over the fact that it had not received access to the underlying source code, which it said made additional purchases less likely. In mid-2021, the US Army conducted its first test of the Iron Dome, but without fully integrating it into its systems.

Israeli defense officials say Israel won’t sell the Iron Dome to nations other than the US, or allow other countries to use it, due to the sensitive and proprietary technologies that make it work, which may fall into enemy hands and could be used to beat the system.

Rockets fired from Gaza and intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system over Israeli skies are seen from Gaza City, Saturday, May 13, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

The Iron Dome, which was first developed in Israel but was expanded significantly with US funding, has been in operational use for over a decade in Israel, principally against short-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, but also along the Lebanese and Syrian borders. It currently 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 missile systems.

The Iron Dome has intercepted thousands of projectiles in its years in service, and has been credited with saving hundreds of lives since it was first deployed in 2011.

Israel is meanwhile developing a high-powered laser-based air defense system, dubbed Iron Beam, which will work in tandem with the Iron Dome at the bottom of Israel’s multi-tiered air defense array.

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