The United States military is examining additional Israeli defense technologies and tactics to augment and strengthen its capabilities. The United States already utilizes Israeli-origin systems such as the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) for F-35 fighter pilots, Reactive Armor tiles for Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Litening Targeting Pods for fighter jets. Through bilateral military cooperation, Israeli innovation plays a vital role in helping America meet its growing security challenges.
In the past few weeks alone, the United States tested Israel’s Iron Dome short-range anti-rocket system, observed major breakthroughs in joint anti-tunneling technology, applied Israeli military techniques in combat, and took the first steps toward bringing an Israeli-developed active protective system to defend U.S. tanks.
In April, the U.S. Army concluded its first successful test in the United States of the Iron Dome system against target drones at a New Mexico test site. The Tamir interceptor was tested in coordination with the Israeli defense company that created the Iron Dome, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and Raytheon, the American defense contractor and world’s largest producer of guided missiles.
According to Rafael, the Tamir, a multi-mission interceptor, struck and destroyed its target.
While testifying on Capitol Hill on April 13, Director of the Missile Defense Agency Vice Adm. James Syring said “we continue to have a very strong cooperative missile defense partnership with Israel… The Department continues to support the critical Iron Dome Program to defeat short-range rockets and artillery through co-production effort.”
In March 2014, the United States and Israeli governments signed a co-production agreement, requiring a proportion of Iron Dome components to be manufactured in America.
“We get tremendous benefit, in terms of the Iron Dome procurement dollars that we and you have appropriated, we have asked for and you have appropriated and then added to even, have resulted in significant work share for U.S. companies, 35 percent of the -- of the procurement in '14, 55 percent of the procurement dollars in '15 go to U.S. companies,” said Syring. “To me that's a great value to them. We also learn a lot from what they've done in terms of choosing components in the engineering they've done on their interceptors. They've done a fantastic job of achieving good performance.”
On April 28, the House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. The bill (H.R. 4909) contains $600.8 million for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs, including $62 million for Iron Dome procurement. The authorization is part of a two-step process. The actual funding will be allocated through an appropriations bill later in the year.
On April 13, the U.S. Marine Corps announced plans to buy or lease an Israeli-developed Active Protection System (APS) for its M1A1 Abrams tanks to better defend against anti-tank missiles. The service intends to test the Trophy APS, along with a number of other programs, in head-to-head exercises. Developed by Rafael, Trophy is designed to neutralize incoming threats in flight. In 2014, throughout Operation Protective Edge, Israeli tanks fitted with the Trophy system were able to successfully neutralize incoming projectile threats in urban settings.
Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps for combat development and integration, told members of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower, “[We are] working very closely with the Army to develop active protection systems, we’re going to go out and try to buy or lease some Trophy systems that are out there…and we’re going to put those on our M1A1 tanks, take that, use it, see how it works.”
Terrorist organizations on Israel’s borders are continuing to construct subterranean passages to attack and kidnap soldiers and civilians. During the 2014 Gaza conflict, Hamas used underground tunnels to terrorize Israel’s civilian population.
On April 16, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) discovered a new two-kilometers-long, concrete tunnel from the southern part of the Gaza Strip into Israel, near the border between Israel and Egypt. The discovery was made possible through the use of a new tunnel detection technology.
Given the similar threats facing the United States, including on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S.-Mexico border and in various locations in the Middle East, this breakthrough technology holds significant potential for the United States.
In the Omnibus Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016, Congress appropriated $40 million in funding for a new U.S.-Israel tunnel detection program that could be used to protect Israel and U.S. forces from terrorist attacks. When deployed, these tools will provide a means of dealing with the complex challenge of locating, mapping and destroying terrorist tunnel networks.
Several defense officials have praised the cooperative anti-tunneling program and encouraged increased funding.
U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, commended U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing in March, stating “we’re the beneficiaries of the great work.”
At the hearing, Theresa Whelan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, concurred. “Seven of the (15) projects we agreed to are for detecting tunnels. Six are for mapping them. And then we have some other projects based on, focused on developing new tunnel detection and mapping technologies. We have one related to intelligence collections. So there's a very robust agenda that we have set, we and the Israelis, have set out for ourselves. So I think we feel that we're in a pretty good position to move forward with them in partnership.”
In addition to utilizing anti-tunneling technology, the Pentagon has begun applying an Israeli battlefield technique to protect civilians in the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS). During the 2014 Gaza conflict, the Israeli air force utilized a “roof knocking” technique to warn civilians an attack was imminent. The technique involves dropping a small, nonlethal device on a target to warn civilians and encourage them to leave the area before an actual attack.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the anti-ISIS Operation Inherent Resolve, revealed in an April 26 press briefing that the United States has begun using the “knock operation” before striking ISIS targets.
Previously, in 2014, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey praised the IDF for going to “extraordinary lengths” to protect civilian lives during the conflict in Gaza.
“I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties,” said Dempsey, hailing measures and precautions taken by the IDF to warn civilians including “roof-knocking” and dropping warning leaflets.
“They did some extraordinary things to try to limit civilian casualties, to include… making it known that they were going to destroy a particular structure.”
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