Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Israeli-based defense technology company RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems have signed a joint venture to establish an Iron Dome Weapon System production facility in the United States. The new partnership, called Raytheon RAFAEL Area Protection Systems, anticipates finalizing a site location before the end of the year.
The new facility will produce both the Iron Dome Weapon System, which consists of the Tamir interceptor and launcher, and the SkyHunter missile, a U.S. derivative of Tamir. A mobile all-weather air defense system, Iron Dome is as a quick reaction defensive surface-to-air-missile (SAM) primarily designed to intercept incoming cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems and short-range targets such as rockets, artillery, mortars and other aerial threats. As such it is mainly intended to protect civilian areas from incoming ordnance.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense Systems’ Sam Deneke, vice president of Land Warfare & Air Defense, said of the joint venture:
“This will be the first Iron Dome all-up-round facility outside of Israel, and it will help the U.S. Department of Defense and allies across the globe obtain the system for defense of their service members and critical infrastructure.”
First becoming operational in 2011, Iron Dome can intercept incoming ordnance out to 70 kilometers (43.5 miles). A single battery utilises wireless data links that enable it to be spread over a much wider area than more conventional SAM systems and as such can provide protection to an urban area of around 150 square kilometres. According to Raytheon and RAFAEL, Iron Dome in Israeli service has more than 2,500 operational intercepts and a success rate exceeding 90 percent.
Since it first fielded Iron Dome has become a critical element in Israel’s defenses against rockets and mortar shells fired against its cities by Palestinian groups and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The United States has closely followed the development of the system and assisted in paying for its development and deployment in Israel. There has been interest in greater fielding of Iron Dome with America’s allies for a decade and the new joint venture between Raytheon and RAFAEL is the next logical step in what has become an increasingly close relationship over a system that is viewed as potentially essential to future needs.