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The Pentagon has had a longstanding concern that many of its airplane and equipment basing locations in the Pacific theater could be vulnerable to Chinese land-fired ballistic missiles.
Of course this pertains to bases in places like Japan and Australia but also, perhaps even more significantly, in the U.S. territory of Guam in the region which can base B-2 bombers, F-22s, F-35s and other crucial assets of great consequence in the region. Chinese ballistic missiles, many of which can fire from concealable mobile launchers and travel distances greater than 1,000 nautical miles, can quite possibly hold Guam and other U.S. allied locations at risk.
The Pentagon has based a range of missile defense technologies in the Pacific, to include the ballistic-missile intercepting Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and other interceptor weapons intended to track and take out incoming enemy ballistic missiles.
Now, perhaps in response to the growing tensions in the region and the rapid arrival of new Chinese precision-guided weapons, the Pentagon has sent its first cutting edge IRON DOME missile defense technology to Guam.
Referring to the now-being-produced Iron Dome as “deployable” and “employable,” Army Maj. Gen. Brian Gibson, Director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told The National Interest that the first Iron Dome battery became operational in September of this year and the second one is slated to arrive in December. Gibson was clear that the Iron Dome fills a critical defense gap for U.S. Air and Missile Defense efforts in the region.
“There may never be enough to protect everything, so we prioritize what is most important in terms of operational capability,” Gibson said.
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Iron Dome brings mobile, ground-fired drone, mortar and artillery defenses. The system could defend armored convoys on the move from incoming enemy fire by finding and “knocking out” approaching artillery or drone weapons. The Iron Dome’s Raytheon and Rafael-built Tamir uses steering fins and a proximity fuze, according to Raytheon’s information.
“Iron Dome detects, assesses and intercepts a variety of shorter-range targets such as rockets, artillery and mortars. It is effective day or night and in all weather conditions including low clouds, rain, dust storms and fog. It features a first-of-its-kind multi-mission launcher designed to fire a variety of interceptor missiles,” a Raytheon statement says.
This is significant as it enables the Tamir missile to explode near a series of approaching enemy munitions or drones to ensure a “kill” of otherwise somewhat elusive or maneuvering targets.
Iron Dome can also be used for critical Forward Operating Base (FOB) protections as a “ready now” technology designed to stop enemy attacks from harming sensitive fortified areas home to U.S. forces, headquarters and weapons. The system can complement several existing and emerging FOB protection programs, such as Army efforts to mount a Phalanx area defense weapon on the back of a Tactical Truck such as a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox