The Pentagon has announced that the US is dispatching a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defense missile system battalions to the Middle East in response to the latest attacks on its troopers.
Since the United States started moving its military assets to the region, beginning with the world’s largest aircraft carrier, USS Gerard R. Ford, it has emphasized that the deployment is meant to prevent escalation. With Israel hinting it is set to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, Washington fears a much bigger regional conflict.
The concerns of a wider regional conflict are conflated with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group launching sporadic attacks on Israel, with the latter warning that the militant group Iran allegedly supports risks dragging Beirut into the conflict. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted overnight air strikes on Southern Lebanon on October 22.
Over three weeks after the Hamas attacks on October 7 that killed 1,400 Israelis, including women and children, the IDF has incessantly carried out bombing runs on the Gaza Strip, reducing the densely populated city to rubble and killing 4,500 people in the enclave.
With the Jewish State pledging to decimate Hamas, the IDF has amassed tanks and troops near the fenced border for a planned ground invasion that is speculated to begin soon.
The imminent ground operation has triggered fears of an all-out regional conflict that could see countries like Iran becoming a party. The decision to deliver these weapons, particularly the THAAD battery, to Israel is part of a more extensive operation to position much more firepower in the region if Iran or its proxies intervene in the battle against Hamas and Hezbollah.
That the United States feels most threatened by Iran and its proxies in the region became evident through Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s statement detailing the deployment.
Austin said, “Following detailed discussions with President Biden on recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East region, I directed a series of additional steps to strengthen the Department of Defense posture in the area today. These steps will bolster regional deterrence efforts, increase force protection for US forces in the region, and assist in the defense of Israel.
“I have also activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery and additional Patriot battalions throughout the region to increase force protection for the US forces.”
To add to the prevailing precarious situation in the Middle East, the US troops came under a spate of attacks last week. Several US positions in Iraq and Syria were attacked by drones, with some of its forces sustaining minor injuries. One contractor died of a cardiac arrest while taking shelter from these attacks.
📸: On Oct. 19, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) took out multiple Houthi missiles & unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea 🌊. Carney is deployed to the @CENTCOM AOR to help ensure maritime security & stability. @SurfaceWarriors @USNavy pic.twitter.com/Kys3Ah1Z4N
— U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) October 21, 2023
Also, earlier, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, USS Carney, was reported to have shot down four land attack cruise missiles and 19 drones launched from Yemen and headed to the Red Sea. The Iran-backed Houthi group in Yemen is believed to have fired the missiles and launched the drones to target Israel.
These incidents make the US THAAD and Patriot air defense systems deployment in the Middle East significant.
For perspective, THAAD aims to intercept ballistic missiles as they leave the midcourse phase of their flight and approach their targets later in their attack profiles. It supplements the Patriot’s upper-layer anti-ballistic missile defense system in many theatres since it can intercept more powerful, swifter, and farther-flying ballistic missiles at longer ranges.
The THAAD is in operation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was used for the first time last year. Besides the THAAD and Patriots, the United States has sent significant naval power to the Middle East in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their auxiliary ships, and about 2,000 Marines. This has been touted as the most significant build-up in the region in recent years.
On its part, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has warned Israel fiercely that failure to halt its bombardment of Gaza could result in an uncontrollable situation in the Middle East. Iran has maintained the position that the US was to “blame for” providing military aid to Israel.
Against this backdrop of intense military activity in the region, Iran has also upped its force projection by amplifying new capabilities and issuing fierce warnings to its age-old rivals, Israel and the United States. This includes arming a cutting-edge drone with lethal missiles.
Iranian Drone Equipped With A Brand-New Air Missile
Amid tensions running high in the region, the Iranian Air Defense Force commander, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi-Fard, announced on October 21 that experts have modified a domestic surface-to-air missile for use with the “Karrar” jet-powered drone.
Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi-Fard stated that the Air Defense Force has successfully fitted the Karrar drone with a “Majid” heat-seeking air-to-air missile with an 8-kilometer range, Tehran Times reported.
He informed the media that after eighteen months of study and testing, the Air Defense experts converted the Majid surface-to-air missile into an air-based weapon through a series of technological modifications.
According to the commander, the Karrar drone was equipped with a Majid missile, which could explode several airborne targets with its warhead. The drone, on its part, has several feathers to its cap already that the Iranian military has made a point to highlight.
Karrar is the first Iranian military drone and has surpassed the record for the highest service ceiling at 47,000 feet. The primary purpose of the contemporary Iranian jet drone Karrar is to intercept enemy aircraft. It’s also known as an advanced interceptor drone at times. It enables the country’s armed forces to execute a more excellent range of high-altitude air defense tasks.
Iran is testing UAVs with air-to-air missiles.
The use of the Majid missile with a range of 8-10 km against air targets from the Karrar UAV. pic.twitter.com/ZUgfKlMXnn
— Clash Report (@clashreport) October 22, 2023
The drone has already sent radio and radar alerts to foreign planes approaching Iran’s flight information region (FIR) or its shoreline waters.
Last month, the deputy commander of Iran’s Air Defense Force, Alireza Elhami, said that the jet-powered drone has forced foreign manned and unmanned aircraft to change their course at high altitudes over the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman, on multiple occasions.
“Karrar has warned the US military’s Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft as well as Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely-piloted surveillance aircraft and made them keep their distance from the Iranian airspace by flying at very high altitudes above the intruders,” Brigadier General Elhami added.
Previously, Sabahi-Fard stressed that the Air Defense Force of Iran possesses excellent military capabilities that are unmatched in the West Asian region.
When referring to Saddam Hussein’s 1980s war against Iran, General Sabahi-Fard said that the armed forces repelled the invasion for eight years using weapons that “all were bought from abroad, and we were utterly dependent.
“But today, the powerful air defense force of the Army has the most advanced and adequate indigenous equipment in the fields of detection, interception, conflict, and information systems in the world.”
As fears of tensions linger, Iran’s military has focused on bolstering its air defense capabilities and building deterrence, preparing for hostilities with its adversaries.
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