As the Marine Corps faces down advancing military capabilities from Russia and China and contends with the proliferation of drone tech among small terror groups the force is rapidly on the hunt for air defense systems.
To build its air defense arsenal the Corps is eyeing a number of technologies, including Israel’s Iron Dome system, known as SkyHunter in the U.S., according to Marine Corps briefing slides prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee and obtained by Marine Corps Times via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Israel’s Iron Dome system is produced by both Raytheon and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It has been in service in Israel since 2011, and since its fielding has a nearly 90 percent success rate, blasting more than 1500 targets, according to Raytheon.
According to the Senate briefing, the Marine Corps sought limited funding in fiscal year 2019 to begin testing and integration of the SkyHunter system with the Corps’ Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, or G/ATOR.
The air defense equipment is vital to Marine Corps near-peer competition in contested environments.
The G/ATOR is a mobile short- and medium-range radar system capable of tracking air breathing targets, cruise missiles, rockets and artillery, and already is fielded by the Corps.
The briefing slides detailed that the Corps has considered mounting the launchers and Iron Dome’s Tamir rockets on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, and Oshkosh’s Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement truck, or MTVR.
An MTVR configured launcher could support a mix of 20 missiles, and the smaller JLTV system would boast a mix of only four missiles but would be highly mobile, the briefing slides highlighted.
No other details were available in the slides.
The Marine Corps confirmed to Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement that it was interested in the SkyHunter system, but said it would not “discuss testing, its outcomes or future results at this time.”
The Iron Dome system has proven highly capable of countering incoming rockets and drone systems fired or launched from Gaza and Syria.
The system was just recently employed Friday and Saturday against a barrage of rockets that Israeli Defense Forces claim were fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas groups in Gaza.
A press release from the Israeli Defense Forces detailed that more than 240 of 690-plus rockets fired into Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
Four Israelis were killed and 130 wounded in the rocket attacks, according to the press release.
Defense News reported in June 2018 that Raytheon and Rafael were seeking U.S. markets for the Iron Dome system and were looking at emerging U.S. Army requirements for a maneuverable short-range air defense system.
At the Eurosatory defense exposition in June 2018, a Defense News story said Rafael showcased an Iron Dome system dubbed I-Dome, which incorporated the launcher, command system and radar onto a single vehicle.
The Iron Dome system underwent a demonstration at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in September 2017, Defense News reported.
And in February the U.S. Army was considering buying two Iron Dome batteries.
The Marine Corps is also looking at Stinger-fired and directed-energy, vehicle-mounted, ground-based air defense systems.
Already fielded by the Corps is a Polaris MRZR mounted electronic attack and tracking system that can blast drones out of the sky. It is called the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, and already has deployed with the 13th and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Units.