Will the US deploy Iron Dome to protect bases in the Gulf?

‘The system will assist the US Army in protecting American troops from ballistic & airborne threats, as well as from developing threats in the areas where US troops are deployed on various missions.’

In early January, Israel completed delivery of a second Iron Dome Missile Defense battery to the to US Army. The deal goes back several years and is a major step for Israeli defense cooperation with the United States, particularly for Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which developed the Iron Dome and is producing it in the US with Raytheon.

At the time, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he was confident “the system will assist the US Army in protecting American troops from ballistic and airborne threats, as well as from developing threats in the areas where US troops are deployed on various missions.” The deal has been done with the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development.

According to a report on Sunday in Haaretz has allowed the US to deploy Iron Dome missile-defense systems in the Gulf. This was always a possibility for the system, given that the US has bases festooned throughout the Persian Gulf. However, it is a sensitive issue.

The Abraham Accords mean that Israel now has peace deals with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Israeli defense companies are expected to take part for the first time at IDEX, a major defense confab, in Abu Dhabi in February. However, the key issues for Israel in this new world are export licenses and agreement by the Defense Ministry and Missile Defense Organization.

Nothing seems to preclude the US using their two batteries on bases in the Gulf. The question is whether two batteries are sufficient to cover the sensitive installations there.

The US already has other defense systems, such as Patriots and C-RAM and the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, as well as microwave weapons it has been working on. One of these is called THOR. Last May, the US tested a laser weapon onboard a ship that is supposed to be able to destroy drones and probably missiles as well.

The US hodgepodge of existing and experimental air defense is not that well-suited to the mission at hand: protecting areas against Iranian asymmetric drone and missile threats. Iran lifted the veil on these threats in September 2019 when it launched 25 cruise missiles and drones to strike Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia. It is believed the drones flew over Kuwait or Iraq to get around the radar and defenses at Abqaiq.

Iran has sent drones to Yemen to be used for attacks, and Yemen’s Houthis have developed their own systems as well. Iraqi militias also have used drones to threaten Saudi Arabia.

The US is concerned about Iranian threats because Iran can use them to blackmail the US. Iran wants a new nuclear deal with Washington, but it is not afraid to use threats to get it. Iran has mined ships in the Gulf of Oman and recently fired long-range ballistic missiles that fell within 100 miles of a US carrier.

Having the Iron Dome in the Gulf could be a game changer for the region because it would neutralize Iran’s threats and prevent Iran and its militias from blackmailing countries with these types of missiles and drones, which could be intercepted by the Israeli-made system.

For instance, the Houthis have used drones to attack an installation near the UAE in 2019. In 2018, there were even reports that the Houthis could target the UAE itself. Spanning almost a decade, Iron Dome has proven successful at dealing with a variety of threats. In Israel it is integrated into a multilayered defense system that works with David’s Sling and Arrow, as well as Israeli radar systems.

The US would need to integrate Iron Dome into its own existing architecture, such as Patriot batteries that more nearly mirror the David’s Sling system.

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