The Pentagon has for the first time deployed its most advanced missile system in Israel, hailing the move as Washington’s “continued commitment” to the security of the regime in Tel Aviv.
The US European Command (EUCOM) said in a statement on Monday that the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was ordered by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in March last year and was intended “as a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”
The statement added that US military forces would be stationed in a number of locations during THAAD’s deployment to “practice operational procedures for augmenting Israel’s existing” systems.
“THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world, and this deployment readiness exercise demonstrates that US forces are agile, and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time,” EUCOM said.
THAAD is a ground-based missile defense system designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the arrival of THAAD and said the deployment was “further evidence” of the United States’ commitment to Tel Aviv. “The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defense systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East.”
The deployment comes a week after Israeli and US militaries wrapped up a week-long drill in Israel, simulating the deployment of American troops to aid in missile defense operations.
The US has already supplied the advanced missile system to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
In November, Saudi Arabia agreed to buy 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment from the United States in a deal valued at $15 billion.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has been seeking to loosen restrictions on American arms sales to boost the country’s weapons industry.
Washington, in the meantime, is under pressure to suspend its arms sales to Riyadh, which has been leading a deadly campaign against Yemen since 2015.