Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper talks with Israel Defense Forces Lt. Tovah Winick, an Iron Dome battery commander, during a tour of the Iron Dome display with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv. Credit: DOD.

The day is approaching, for the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system to deliver.

It will soon be put to the test — does it work?

We shall soon see … in spring of 2021, in fact, in the White Sands desert of New Mexico.

The US Army has announced it is activating two Iron Dome batteries at Fort Bliss, Texas, in preparations to test the Israeli Iron Dome system, to which it will face rockets, artillery, mortar shells, unmanned drones and cruise missiles, Al-Monitor reported.

“These actions are part of the Army’s force realignment initiative,” the Army said in the statement.

“Upon receipt of the first battery, the Army will begin training and integration of Iron Dome into the Army’s Integrated Battle Command System.”

The United States retrieved the first Iron Dome battery from Israel in October, and the pair of batteries are set to arrive at Fort Bliss by January, Al-Monitor reported.

It plans to test the Iron Dome at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico next year, possibly in May.

“These Iron Dome batteries will provide the Army with an interim cruise missile defense capability,” the statement read.

Congress mandated that the Iron Dome batteries be purchased to fill a gap in the US military’s air defense capabilities, despite public expressions of doubt from senior military officials over whether the system could reliably shoot down cruise missiles and be integrated into US electronic command-and-control systems, Al-Monitor reported.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper tours the Iron Dome display with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 29, 2020. Credit: DOD.

The Army aims to have the Iron Dome systems operational and ready for deployment by the end of September 2021, though questions remain about the system’s reliability for defense against cruise missiles and other projectiles with relatively flat trajectories.

For their part, the Israelis are confident, the system will perform well.

The Israelis have used the system to stop the rain of missiles that struck vulnerable cities in the south and north of the country. They claim it has prevented more than 2,500 missiles from striking occupied areas of the country.

Iron Dome is designed to shoot down short-range missiles — those with a range of about 40 miles or less. The Israelis developed the system in response to threats emanating from Gaza and Southern Lebanon.

Israeli scientists worked on the solution to the problem set and often consulted with US researchers. They developed and fielded the system quickly. The United States military invested in the project as well.

The system the US Army has bought has been continually improved since its debut, Israeli Missile Defense Organization Chief Moshe Patel said.

Israeli scientists worked the algorithms to increase the accuracy and range of the missiles. They also adapted it so it is compliant with US command and control systems, and by extension, NATO command and control.

There is an artificial intelligence function that analyzes incoming rounds and determines if people or facilities are in danger. If not, the AI would not recommend a shot.

A person is always in the kill loop, however, according to an Israeli Defense Forces officer whose identity is protected.

(Sources: Al-Monitor, US Department of Defense)

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