For the first time, the United States deployed a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense battery to Israel for a month-long readiness exercise. The early March exercise served as “a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security,” said a March 4 statement by the U.S. European Command.
The deployment to southern Israel in the Negev desert was unrelated to a specific event, but helped Israel to integrate the system into the nation’s defenses and “simulate different scenarios,” according to Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
Designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the THAAD system uses an X-band radar that Israel has deployed at its Nevatim airbase since 2008.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the THAAD system, noting in a March 4 statement that “together with our defense systems we are even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East.” The deployment occurs during a push to tighten U.S.-Israeli military cooperation following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of U.S. troop reductions in Syria and amid tensions with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israeli missile defense systems also include the Iron Dome system, designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells, and Patriot and Arrow ballistic missile defense systems. Israel is testing an advanced version of David’s Sling, an air defense and tactical missile defense system.—SHERVIN TAHERAN