First deployment of US THAAD missile air defense system in Israel


A few hours after the Americans deployed the THAAD in Israel, the Pentagon announced a $1 billion payment from Saudi Arabia toward its acquisition, reflecting both countries' concerns about Iran’s continued missile program, Anna Ahronheim reports in The Jerusalem Post.


First deployment of US THAAD missile air defense system in Israel
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) (Picture source: U.S. DoD)


The American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system arrived in Israel on Tuesday March 5, along with some 200 troops from US European Command (EUCOM) for a month-long drill between the two allies. According to an undisclosed expert, the deployment and its connected drill should not be looked at as one taking place due to regional events but as one which should have taken place years ago. Notice that Washington and Israel had signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war, according Uzi Rubin, the former head of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile project.

According to the Israel Defense Force, the purpose of the tactical deployment of the THAAD is to “practice rapid deployment across the globe of complex systems, and to enhance cooperation with the IAF’s Air Defense Systems,” adding that “the IDF is working in cooperation with US forces to enhance coordination between the two militaries and to strengthen the ability to defend Israeli airspace.” From the start in the 1990s, all Israeli systems would be designed to communicate with American systems.

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, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300 km.

According to Rubin, the Americans deployed the THAAD’s Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TPY2) radar to Israel as far back at 2012 with American troops operating it.
“‘Dynamic Force Employment’ makes our activities unpredictable to adversaries while maintaining strategic predictabilities to our allies and partners,” the IDF spokesperson said.

Iran, which possesses over 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, is suspected of continuing to smuggling weapons to countries and non-state actors such as Hezbollah, which is assessed to have an arsenal of between some 100,000 and 150,000 missiles on Israel’s northern border, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In Yemen, the Houthis, who are armed by Iran, have also fired several ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, including one which targeted the Saudi capital Riyadh a day before US President Donald Trump visited the kingdom.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are at their worst in years with both accusing the other of subverting regional security. In comparison, while Israel has no official ties with Saudi Arabia, the relationship with the Sunni kingdom and other Gulf States has grown stronger in recent years, due in large part to the shared threat of Iran’s expansion across the region.

According to Rubin, Anna Ahronheim concludes, the purchase of the THAAD system by the Saudis is in Israel’s best interest. “It’s a good thing for the Saudis to have it,” he told the Post, stressing that “they have the right to defend themselves and it is not against Israeli interests that they defend themselves."


 

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