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Iron Dome at White Sands missile Range, NM, United States 6/23/2021 (Photo by David Huskey)

The United States made the decision to purchase two Iron Dome Batteries in 2019 at a total cost of $1.7 billion. The Department of Defense purchased the Iron Dome system in response to a Congressional requirement in the FY2019 NDAA that the Army procure and deploy cruise missile defense “gap filler” systems to protect vulnerable U.S. airfields in Europe (Ramstein) and the Pacific (Anderson). The “gap filler” system was required to be capable of both engaging sophisticated Chinese and Russian cruise missiles, and integrating with existing U.S. air defense systems. Congressional staff repeatedly suggested to the Army that the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) was the most logical “gap filler” system. The then-Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, subsequently made the decision to select Iron Dome over NASAMS after a visit to Israel where he observed Iron Dome’s superb performance engaging rockets and mortars in Israel.

The Iron Dome was designed, developed, and funded by both the United States and Israel to defeat rockets and mortars launched from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, targeting populated areas and other critical locations. It has been wildly successful at this mission. However, over the past three years, the United States Army has struggled to integrate the Iron Dome into its air defense artillery network architecture and command and control systems, due to it being a non-U.S. system for which the source codes were not transferred as part of a purchase. Israel made the decision not to allow the U.S. to receive those codes as part of the sale. In turn, this prevented the U.S. from integrating the Iron Dome Systems into the Army networks. Additionally, in August of this year, Iron Dome lost a shoot-off competition with the Enduring Shield system for selection as the U.S. Army’s long-term cruise missile defense system, known as Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) Increment 2. 

Last month, despite the current version of Iron Dome, having very limited cruise missile capabilities, and its inability to integrate with other U.S. systems, the Army proceeded with deploying the system to Guam to “meet Congressional requirements” – the same requirements that the Army had largely ignored in selecting the Iron Dome system.  

After several years of Iron Dome testing in the White Sands Test Range in New Mexico, why is it in Guam? It does not have the capability to defeat Chinese cruise missile threats and it is not integrated with U.S. systems. There are no rocket and mortar threats into Guam that represent what the Iron Dome excels at negating. There is not a Hamas and Hezbollah off the coast of Guam. Rather, the cruise missile threat to Guam is from high speed, highly maneuverable, low elevation missiles that our near-peer adversaries hold in high numbers. This is a cruise missile threat that the Iron Dome is not able or designed to defeat. In fact, Israel has very wisely designed and deployed the David Sling system to defeat these more complex cruise missile threats. 

We hope that Guam is just a “pit stop” and Iron Dome is actually on its way to the Republic of Korea where it would be extremely useful and effective for population defense in major cities as it is in Israel with the North Korea situation on the border. Or Iron Dome could be on its way to Ukraine where it would be extremely useful and effective for population defense in the major cities there as well. But perhaps most hopefully the Iron Dome could be prioritized to return to Israel where they have heavily taxed their Iron Dome capacity, and the two batteries would be a welcome addition in a fight against a relentless enemy. 

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Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.