In the weeks following the barbaric terrorist attack by Hamas on Israeli citizens, numerous U.S. and Israeli cruise and ballistic missile defense systems have been called into action to defeat threat missiles, drones and rockets. The attempts by Iranian proxies in the Middle East to attack both Israeli and US targets over the past several weeks reminds us of the requirement for a comprehensive, capable integrated air and missile defense architecture, including persistent, all-domain sensors, a resilient Command and Control structure, and a deep magazine of capable, affordable effectors.
Israel has leveraged every tool in its arsenal to defeat the wide array of threats to its sovereign territory, including Iron Dome to counter rockets and short range missiles from Gaza, Stunner missiles fired by the David’s Sling System have shot down missiles out of Southern Lebanon, the first ever Arrow-3 to shoot down a surface-to-surface missile from Yemen, and most recently, the F-35I to defeat a cruise missile from Yemen. This is the first-ever cruise missile kill for an F-35 from any nation, and it demonstrates the unique capability the platform brings to the IAMD architecture. The airplane is equipped with advanced, multi-spectral, fused sensors, enabling it to detect, identify, and track a wide range of targets. This high-fidelity data is not only presented to the airplane’s pilot, but shared across the formation and the entire IAMD network via modern datalinks, allowing commanders to choose the optimal weapon to counter the inbound threat. In the case of the recent cruise missile shoot down, that weapon of choice was an AIM-9X heat seeking missile fired by the F-35I.
US forces in Iraq and Syria have utilized the Coyote C-sUAS system to negate threats to personnel and infrastructure from the Iranian-backed militias, and the USS Carney in the Red Sea used its Aegis SM2 capability and utilized its advanced sense-ID-track-shoot capabilities to destroy cruise missiles launched at Israel from Yemeni territory controlled by the Houthis.
It is gratifying to witness the USS Carney in its ability to track and sense missiles launched from Yemen. It is gratifying to see the Israeli F35I shoot down a cruise missile. It is gratifying to see the Arrow-3 system shoot down a missile from the Houthis in Yemen. It is also gratifying to see the C-UAS Coyote system working to save American lives in Iraq and Syria.
The F35 platform brings forth cutting-edge technology as it is the ultimate mobile sensor suite. It is a flying kill-chain. The art and science of comprehensive missile defense resides in our ability to fuse and integrate multiple diverse capabilities within an overarching missile defense architecture. Having its ability to use that while in flight to detect missiles, provide fire control information, and shoot them from long distances is exponential in defensive force projection across our joint force and globally with our allies.
IAMD is serious business. The threat is real, and there is no “silver bullet” to counter all of the missile threats from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and their proxies. The US and its Allies must continue to invest in a robust, resilient, and affordable sensor and shooter architecture that offers commanders numerous options to achieve mission success. For the acquisition of new technologies and fusion, we are required by the world with urgency to get capabilities NOW to negate this existential threat that continues to exponentially grow and proliferate.
We owe our citizens and the citizens of the world nothing less than integrated missile defense capability to make the world a safer place.