As the United States Marine Corps transitions from grinding land warfare operations to an expeditionary maritime assault force, this fighting force is looking far and wide for the best of the best in weapons technology. They’ve turned to Norway for some of the newest and most potent anti-ship missiles, to Germany for their new standard-issue service rifle — and now, the Corps could look to Israel for the best in rocket and possibly missile defense.
Can Iron Dome Go Mobile?
More specifically, the Marine Corps is exploring how to adapt Israel’s static Iron Dome missile defense system into a more mobile unit that can operate during expeditionary-type operations. For this to happen, the Corps would need to integrate Iron Dome with their own Common Aviation Command and Control System, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force management system that integrates a variety of data input from air- and ground-based radar to provide an accurate real-time battlefield picture. Additionally, the Marine Corps would need to integrate their own tracking and surveillance radar with Iron Dome.
In order to successfully adapt the Israeli-designed missile defense system for American operations, Iron Dome’s Tamir missile launcher would have to be transferred from a heavy fixed base onto a more mobile, trailered configuration. A more mobile Iron Dome set up on a trailer could also be paired with the Marine Corps’ rugged Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which would be able to deploy with a temporary shelter-type office space to house battlefield management equipment.
Trial By Fire
Israel’s Iron Dome went through some of its most strenuous real-world operations to date during a recent spate of rocket attacks fired by Hamas militants. Though definitive numbers are difficult to access for accuracy, various Israeli sources claim a missile interception success rate of 85-90%. Although Iron Dome has typically been used to take out incoming rockets, missiles, and artillery shells, the system has reportedly been adapted to take out slower-moving drone targets as well.
Referring to a trailered Iron Dome, a senior Marine Corps program official stated that, “It’s not cemented to the ground and stationary, it is able to be moved,” as part of an interview with Jane’s. “If we can move it easier, that’s the ultimate objective… and it can defend a host of sites but primarily temporary [and] fixed sites.”
By adapting Israeli’s Iron Dome to dispersed, expeditionary operations, the Marine Corps could soon field a potent and proven anti-missile capability. It takes little creativity to imagine a modified Iron Dome protecting groups of Marines on austere, far-flung specks of land throughout the Pacific Ocean — affording the Marine Corps a possible powerful defensive capability against Chinese missile salvos meant to eliminate them from advanced forward positions.
Caleb Larson is a defense writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.