The Iron Dome Air Defense System Is Heading To Guam

The Army has made no secret that a major impetus for this deployment was a requirement in the annual defense policy bill, or National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for the 2021 Fiscal Year. Members of Congress had directed the service to send an Iron Dome battery to an “operational theater” by the end of this year.

“Soldiers and equipment … will deploy in order to fulfill those NDAA requirements, test the capabilities of the system, and further train and refine the deployment capabilities of air defenders,” according to a brief press release. “There is currently no plan to conduct a live fire of the system while it is on Guam.”

At the same time, the potential threat, broadly, posed by cruise missiles, including advanced supersonic and potential future hypersonic anti-ship and land-attack types, as well as various tiers of drones, is only increasing. Iron Dome would, at least on a limited, interim level, help bolster defenses against these target sets, on Guam right now. Submarines and surface warships, as well as even just modified counter ships, along with long-range missile carrier aircraft, could launch salvos of land-attack cruise missiles at the island during a potential future major crisis, especially one involving China

It is worth noting that drones, especially, present very real threats outside of the bounds of traditional conflicts, as well. As The War Zone
was the first to report, there were multiple incursions by unidentified small drones over the THAAD battery on the island in 2019, underscoring the multi-faceted challenges that small unmanned aircraft present already.

The Army first announced plans to acquire two Iron Dome batteries in 2019 primarily as an interim cruise missile defense system, with an eye toward purchasing more as time went on. A complete Iron Dome system consists of multiple launch units, each capable of holding up to 20 Tamir interceptors at a time, along with radars to detect and track targets and a battle management and control unit. Tamir is a highly maneuverable missile that contains an active radar seeker to help find its target, as well as two-way datalink that enables it to get updated targeting information from the battle management and control unit in-flight, improving its accuracy. The interceptor uses a ring-shaped high-explosive blast-fragmentation warhead, triggered by a laser proximity fuze, to actually destroy incoming threats. You can read more about Tamir and its capabilities here.

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