US Army Scraps Plan to Sink $1 Billion Into Israeli Iron Dome Air Defenses Over Performance Limitations
They're built to counter home-made rockets and contraptions but can't take down cruise missiles as Israelis claim
Editor’s note: The “polite” reason given by the Pentagon why it’s canceling plans to get Iron Domes is that they would be challenging to integrate into existing US air defenses. That may be true but just days before it announced its decision the US military also made it clear that after taking a look it doesn’t believe Israeli claims that Iron Domes can defend against cruise missiles. And why would they?
Since 2011 the US Congress may have given Israel $1.5 billion of free money to develop them, but naturally, the Israelis tailored them for their own needs and environment. They were built to deal with the kind of ordnance Israel actually faces, which are improvised home-made rockets of the kind that can be manufactured in the Gaza open-air prison, not with cruise missiles of a credible nation-state threat. The US military knows this but was compelled by Congress to look into them anyway (and to even purchase two batteries).
So then you have a Congress which is giving away free taxpayer money to a foreign power which a.) is in the wrong and b.) doesn’t need aid in the first place, and then turns around and tries to saddle the US military and troops with ineffectual defenses to cover its rear and to do another favor to Israel with a chance to sell a weapon largely developed with US money back to the US. Then, of course, a part of the dynamic is also that generals want Raytheon ware, because they’ll get to sit on its board if they do.
The United States Army has announced the termination of plans to acquire Iron Dome short ranged air defence systems from Israel, following the announcement of a potential acquisition in 2019 under a $1 billion contract.
The Iron Dome is manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, but has yet to find an export client despite having been marketed for over ten years.
The Army has expressed doubt in the Iron Dome’s ability to intercept cruise missiles – which would be critical to plugging the gap in existing American missile defences.
The system was designed to provide defence against artillery and cruise missile attacks, but is not capable of intercepting aircraft or ballistic missiles.
A further issue cited by the U.S. Army was Israel’s refusal to provide the Iron Dome’s source codes, which would seriously restrict the service’s ability to integrate it into its existing air defence network.
U.S. Army General Mike Murray, head of Army Futures Command, said the service identified a number of problems with the Iron Dome including cyber vulnerabilities and operational shortcomings, and stated in conclusion: “We believe we cannot integrate them into our air defence system based on some interoperability challenges, some cyber challenges and some other challenges.”
The Iron Dome has for years reportedly been integrated into Israel’s air defence network, which is overwhelmingly comprised of American systems including the MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-104 Patriot and the David’s Sling which is built around American technologies supplied by Raytheon. This raises some questions regarding the claim that the Iron Dome cannot be integrated into a network comprised of American systems.
Source: Military Watch
ARMY DOUBTS IRON DOME CAN KILL CRUISE MISSILES
Israeli manufacturer Rafael says its anti-rocket system can now shoot down cruise missiles. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and acquisition chief Bruce Jette are saying, show us the data.
Israeli arms maker Rafael has been slow to provide critical data on how well its Iron Dome defends against cruise missiles and whether it can plug into existing US missile defenses, top Army officials said here today.
“The Israelis have been very good in working with us — for the most part,” the Army’s acquisition chief, Bruce Jette, told reporters at the annual McAleese defense conference. “We have come to some places where it becomes a little difficult to get the right data.”
“They have espoused, and to some degree demonstrated, the ability to deal with some cruise missiles,” Jette said of the Israelis. “The problem is we have to deal with all cruise missiles, and we don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.”
“Could they modify it to make it be able to perform that way? Maybe,” Jette said. “Could we see it happening in all-terrain? Maybe. In all electromagnetic spectrum situations [i.e. against radar and radio jamming]? Maybe.”
“All these things add up,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to test before we say, ‘yes, we’ve got the answer.’”
Congress compelled a reluctant Army to buy two batteries of the vaunted Israeli system – developed in large part with US funds – as an interim defense after the Army’s own Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) program ran into trouble. The Army has since rebooted IFPC, which will include both anti-missile missiles and high-powered lasers, and the service remains publicly skeptical about Iron Dome. But today was the first time we’ve heard senior officials explain why in such unsparing detail.
“For the IFPC requirement, we’ve got to be able to fight the cruise missile threat,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters at the conference this morning. “Iron Dome brings more capability than we have in our missile defense [force] today, but it doesn’t meet the full requirement.”
“One of the things we need to work out is getting more data from the manufacturer. [It’s] proprietary from their standpoint, but if we don’t get it, we don’t know if we can make adjustments,” McCarthy explained. “If we get more of the data, we can make better decisions about if we had to re-engineer certain aspects of the weapon system [so] that it could actually prosecute cruise missiles.”
Show Me The Data
“Iron Dome’s a good system,” Jette said. “It’s designed really well to do what it does – which is [counter] rockets, artillery, and mortars, in a particular configuration, in a particular environment.” [Some studies would disagree with Jette about Iron Dome’s effectiveness, even against rockets]
“We have some different parametrics we have to pay attention to,” Jette said. “We have to operate in an extremely contested environment… If others have not already gotten there and can show us they can operate in those environments, then it causes us pause.”
In other words (our words, not Jette’s): It’s one thing to set up static positions to defend the land area of Israel – slightly larger than New Jersey, counting disputed territories – against unguided rockets fired by Hamas or Hezbollah, plus the possibility of an Iranian-made knockoff of an old Chinese or Russian cruise missile.
It’s another thing to deploy anywhere in the world with the US Army, from the Norwegian Arctic to the South China Sea, from Kuwaiti deserts to Afghan mountains, against adversaries with high-power jammers to blind your radars and supersonic cruise missiles to outmaneuver your interceptors.
Interim & Partial Solutions
How could the Army not have figured this out already, one reporter asked, when the decision to buy Iron Dome was made over a year ago?
“Over a year?” McCarthy replied. “It was in the NDAA [the National Defense Authorization Act] a year ago — and then we had to go get them on contract and buy them. [There’s] more work to do with the manufacturer before you’re in a position to know what changes you’d make in the test regime.”
“It’s not like we’ve had them on hand,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve even made them yet.”
Even when the Israelis deliver the two Iron Dome batteries to the Army, that doesn’t commit the Army to buying more. “We leave our options open in the IFPC study that we delivered to the Hill a couple of weeks ago,” McCarthy said.
“Remember these were interim systems, interim solutions,” Jette said of Iron Dome. “They were not necessarily meant to be the final solution. That doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to being the final solution.”
Maybe parts of Iron Dome can evolve into parts of the Army’s future Indirect Fire Protection Capability, Jette suggested. “We knew up-front part of our testing with Iron Dome would be to how can we break the pieces apart,” he said. “We’re going to give Iron Dome an opportunity to be a participant in that approach to producing an IFPC module.”
But figuring out how to integrate elements of Iron Dome – currently a self-contained system with its own missile, launchers, radars, and command posts – with US Army systems is going to require even more highly technical data.
“We already have a missile command center. IBCS [Integrated Battle Command System] is already firing all of our missiles; we need it to be able to fire their missiles,” Jette said. “How do we communicate with the radar? How can our radar work with their missiles? These types of things are all pieces we need to sort out.”
Source: Breaking Defense