The Army has begun phasing in a short-range, air defense system by activating a pair of “Iron Dome” batteries at Fort Bliss, located near El Paso, Texas.
The move, announced Friday, will allow them to test the Israeli-developed Iron Dome system and explore its potential for future integration into the Army’s air defense system.
The decision was authorized by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. It will provide the Army with an interim cruise missile defense capability system to protect critical sites against air and missile threats. The testing that will occur at Fort Bliss will factor into any future deployment decisions, officials said.
The development of the Iron Dome batteries meant the conversion of a Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) battery and a “realignment” of resources from the Army’s Air Defense Artillery School. Almost 30 Army troops will be based at Fort Bliss to support the new Iron Dome batteries.
The Army will be ready for operational deployment of the first interim Iron Dome battery by late 2021, officials said.
Military officials will make a final decision on where the batteries should be based once testing is complete and Iron Dome reaches an “operational deployment capability,” officials said.