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U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation: Iron Dome Cooperation

One of the most impressive weapons in the Israeli arsenal is the Iron Dome anti-missile system. The most-recent addition to Israel's missle defense system, it has proved many skeptics of missile defense wrong, the Iron Dome has proved, literally, to be a life saver.

First deployed in 2011, Iron Dome has established a protective umbrella over Israel’s major cities. It proved especially valuable during Israel’s Operation Productive Edge, when it shot down 90 percent of the rockets fired by Hamas terrorists from Gaza toward as the cities of Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Between July 7 and July 10 alone, Iron Dome intercepted approximately 100 rockets.

On July 12, 2014, Israel deployed its seventh Iron Dome battery, and within a week the system had intercepted five Gaza-based rockets targeting Tel Aviv.

Iron Dome’s rockets, which cost $20,000 each are fired from a team-operated battery, act in conjunction with battery-deployed radar-guided early warning systems.  When a rocket is fired, the Iron Dome’s detection and tracking software determines the danger, and if the rocket is targeting a populated area, it is intercepted.  Each Iron Dome battery has an effective range of 150 kilometers.  As of the summer of 2014, Israel has a total of eight batteries it can deploy wherever they are most needed.

The Iron Dome is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Defense and Israel’s Ministry of Defense. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the U.S. government had invested $900 million in Iron Dome production and, after seeing its performance, Congress proposed an additional $235 million for its continued development. Rafael, the primary defense contractor on the Iron Dome project, formalized an agreement with U.S.-based Raytheon to produce the Tamir missile, the anti-missile rocket fired from the Iron Dome.

It was announced on September 30, 2014, that Waltham, Massachusetts based company Raytheon had been awarded a contract from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd worth $149 million to manufacture Iron Dome interceptor components.  Raytheon will manufacture products used in the Tamir interceptor, used by the Iron Dome weapons system.  Raytheon is the world's number one producer of guided missiles, and they will be the Israeli's second source for Tamir interceptor missiles.  After Operation Protective Edge, Israeli defense professionals agreed that they needed to have a greater supply of Iron Dome rockets.  Raytheon and the Israeli government have had a co-marketing agreement for the Iron Dome in place since 2011, and this is the first contract awarded since this agreement was forged. 

As a part of fiscal year 2015's $585 billion Defense Authorization Bill, the United States government authorized the allocation of $351 million for Israel's Iron Dome system.  The funds are to be used to "procure additional Irom Dome interceptors," including ones that are produced within the United States.  This authorization of funds represents an increase of $176 million from fiscal year 2014's allocation of $175 million for the same purpose. 

Ending months of uncertainty, in December 2014 the United States Congress passed a spending bill that kept the government funded through September 2015.  This bill authorized $1.1 trillion in spending, and includes the standard $3.1 billion annual US military aid to Israel and an additional $619 million designated for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.  Israeli newspaper Globes reported that this aid package was one of the largest military aid packages that the US has ever given Israel. As a stipulation for this funding, it is included in the spending bill that 55% of the new components for the Iron Dome be manufactured within the United States by Raytheon.  This bill also includes $268 million designated for Israel's other defense systems, Arrow and David's Sling. 

The first ever trial of an Iron Dome interceptor on U.S. soil was conducted on April 20, 2016. The Tamir interceptor, fired by the Iron Dome system, successfully struck and destroyed it's drone target during a test conducted by Israel-based Rafael Systems, and U.S. defense contractor Raytheon.

The U.S. government's spending bill passed in March 2018 included a record-high $705 million in funding earmarked for Israel's missile defense systems.  

Sources: Barbara Opall-Rome, "Israel Readies First US Co-Production Order for Iron Dome." Defense News, (N.p., 12 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014);
“House Spending Bill Earmarks $3.7 Billion in Military Aid for Israel, With Special Emphasis on Anti-Missile Systems,” Algemeiner, (December 12 2014);
Yaakov Lapin, “US Army tests Iron Dome interceptor missile against drones,” The Jerusalem Post, (April 20, 2016);
Israel thanks US for ‘record-breaking’ missile defense aid, ABC News, (March 26, 2018).