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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

Report: Israel approves use of Iron Dome at US bases in region

Israeli-made missile system would allow US forces and allies to benefit from a 'layered' air defence

An Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome defence missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is pictured in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on November 12, 2019. AFP
An Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome defence missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is pictured in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on November 12, 2019. AFP

Israel has agreed to let the US military deploy its Iron Dome missile defence system at bases in the Arabian Gulf, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia, according to Israel's Haaretz newspaper.

Unidentified Israeli security officials who spoke to the paper declined to reveal where the batteries will be deployed, Haaretz said. Two have already been delivered, according to the newspaper.

The systems in the Middle East are intended to defend US forces in the Gulf from attacks by Iran and its proxies, the Israeli officials said. The US will deploy batteries in eastern Europe out of concern Russia could try to attack US forces or strategic infrastructure in those countries, they said.

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, the Israeli company that developed the Iron Dome with partners, will open a production line in the US with Massachusetts-based defence contractor Raytheon, to produce batteries for the American military and other countries in Europe, the Gulf, and Asia, Haaretz said.

The Iron Dome made headlines around the world in April 2011 after successfully intercepting a Grad-style rocket – an unguided weapon developed in the former Soviet Union – that had been fired from Gaza.

Since then the system has reportedly intercepted apout 2,000 rockets and missiles fired towards Israel. It could also be highly attractive to the Pentagon, because its missiles are considerably cheaper than those of America's Patriot system, which until now has been the mainstay of US defence against ballistic missiles.

The Iron Dome has also demonstrated effectiveness against unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and could potentially be very effective against so-called "suicide drones", which continue to be developed and deployed by US adversaries in the region, in particular Iran.

Iran has developed "delta-style" drones, such as those used to attack Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq in September 2019. While the latest PAC-3 Patriot missile system also has the capability to intercept such small targets, the Iron Dome's missiles cost of $40,000 compared to the PAC-3's missile cost of $3 million.

This makes the Iron Dome highly competitive, especially considering unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by Iran or its allied proxy groups are far cheaper. In a worst-case scenario, explosive UAVs could be deployed en masse, so called "swarming tactics", so the more missile interceptors available to a defender, the better. If the system is deployed to the Gulf, US forces would likely use it in a "layered" defence, with the Patriot system intended to stop larger and faster targets, such as ballistic missiles.

Updated: January 24, 2021 06:04 PM

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