The Israeli military announced the end of the first practical deployment of the American THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system to Israel on Monday.
The missile defense system was deployed to Israel in early March along with 250 American personnel belonging to the US European Command (EUCOM) as part of a joint drill between the two allies.
During the drill the THAAD system, which is considered one of the most advanced systems of its kind in the world, the two militaries practiced a variety of scenarios as well as the ability to integrate it into the IAF’s Air Defense Array.
“The IDF cooperates with American forces in order to enable coordination and improve the operational capabilities necessary for defending the skies of Israel,” the IDF said in a statement.
“The deployment is another step in strengthening the long-term relationship between the two countries and strengthens the close cooperation between them.”
THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), which was deployed to Israel’s Nevatim Airbase during the drill, will come from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas, EUCOM said.
“The cooperation between the Air Defense Array and its American counterpart emphasizes the professionalism and operational strength that brings better protection of the skies of Israel,”said Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochav, commander of Israel’s Aerial Defense Division.
“The system is integrated as an equivalent of the Israeli Arrow Weapons System and brings with it complementary capabilities.Thanks to the professional relationship and the joint training, we are better prepared for real-life challenges.”
Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets; the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the David’s Sling missile defense system, which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 km. to 300 km.
The mobile AN/TPY-2 is a high-resolution X-band radar array which is designed to search, acquire, track and differentiate inbound threats. It provides additional early warning against ballistic missile launches from almost 3,000 miles away.
THAAD is designed to protect against hostile incoming threats such as tactical and theater ballistic missiles at ranges of 200 km. and altitudes of up to 150 km., intercepting exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric missiles.
The system can also provide the upper tier of a layered defensive shield alongside lower and medium-tier systems such as the Patriot missile defense system, which is part of Israel’s air defense arsenal as well.
Deputy Commander of the US Army in Europe Maj.-Gen. Andrew J. Rowling congratulated the troops who participated in the drill on their “exceptional performance.”
“The Department of Defense called on them on short notice to rapidly deploy a THAAD system thousands of miles across the globe, and then integrate into one of the most complex missile defense architectures in the world – and they delivered in spades,” he said.
“The ability to rapidly surge combat-ready forces into and across the theater is critical to projecting forces at a moment’s notice, to support our Allies and partners across the theater.”
While Washington and Jerusalem have signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war, the IDF stressed that the drills were part of scheduled exercises and were not related to the high tensions currently on it’s borders.
An Israeli intelligence assessment several weeks before the drill found that the threat posed by Iran – including its nuclear and ballistic missile program – is the number one priority for the IDF.
Tensions with Gaza are also running high, with three infantry brigades and an artillery unit deployed to enhance the Southern Command earlier in the week. In addition, the leave of all combat units that are currently assigned to the Southern Command has been cancelled. Reservists in the air defense division have also been called up.
“The Air Defense Array combat soldiers, in active service and in the reserves, are operationally prepared to defend Israel airspace, in all sectors, and in country-wide deployment,” Kochav said.