The US Army expects to start testing of two Iron Dome batteries next year, as the short-range air defense systems arrive in December 2020 and February 2021.
The army said the batteries will go through initial testing on American soil before they can be fielded to army formations.
The army plans to begin phased testing of the systems, as the missiles, launchers and radar go from the assembly line in Israel to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to undergo an equipment fielding and training program, said Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, air and missile defense cross-functional team director.
According to the service, the rigorous testing of each system will end with a live-fire engagement to shoot down a surrogate cruise missile target. After this, the Iron Dome batteries will officially stand up at Fort Bliss, Texas, and be available for operational deployment by September 2021 and December 2021, respectively.
Iron Dome will have to pass the AIAMD integration test
Although a “very capable and proven weapon system,” Gen. John M. Murray, Army Futures Command commanding general said, “the army needs to get its hands on the Iron Dome” to see if it is possible to integrate it into the army’s integrated air and missile defense, or AIAMD, framework.
The marines have demonstrated possible interoperability of the system — but interoperability is much different from being integrated, Gibson said.
For example, although the marines provided their sensor data to fire the Iron Dome, this only provided fire direction and not the fire control required on a multi-domain battlefield.
“What the Marines demonstrated was an interoperable solution, where they took a subset of an Iron Dome weapon system using their radar, launchers, those type of things,” Gibson said. So, even though Iron Dome took direction from an outside mission command system, “the weapon system still made the ultimate decision on what to do.”
The Iron Dome system is a battle-proven weapon and for years it has helped safeguard locations around Israel from rocket fire.
“It’s an effective, truck-towed, multi-mission mobile air defense system developed to counter very short-range rockets, artillery and mortar threats,” Gibson added.