The US has deployed its THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system in Israel as part of a joint drill between the two allies. THAAD – Terminal High Altitude Area Defense purpose is “to train the ability to rapidly deploy complex systems around the world while strengthening capabilities and cooperation with the air defense systems of the Israel Air Force,” the statement said.
The system, which is considered one of the most advanced systems of its kind in the world, will be added to the existing Israeli air defense systems which defend against long-range ballistic missiles.
Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets and the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and the David’s Sling missile defense system, which is 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 IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, the THAAD system will be deployed in southern Israel and some 200 American troops will take part in the drill.
The drill comes shortly after the completion of Juniper Falcon 2019, which tested the level of coordination between the two countries in the event of a ballistic missile threat against Israel.
As part of Juniper Falcon 2019, some 300 Americans from the United States European Command (USEUCOM) flew into Israel last week and joined 400 IDF troops from various units, including the Air Defense Array, the Operations Directorate, the Navy, logistical units and medical forces.
While the military contends that the drills are part of scheduled exercises and are not related to the high tensions with Iran on Israel’s northern border, an Israeli intelligence assessment found that the threat posed by Iran – including its nuclear and ballistic missile program – is the number one priority for the IDF.
Iran, which possesses more than 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.
Washington and Israel have signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war and last year 3,000 American troops took part in Juniper Cobra, which simulated a massive missile attack on the Israeli homefront.
“The IDF is prepared and ready to defend the skies and the homefront from a variety of close and far-reaching threats and welcomes the exercise,” the IDF statement said, stressing that “this is a defensive deployment that is not related to a specific event.”
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