The U.S. military has deployed its most advanced air and missile defense system to Israel for the first time, the U.S. and Israeli military officials said on Monday.
The deployment comes as both countries have been especially critical of Iran’s ballistic missile programs, but also reflects a contingency plan that has been in place for more than a decade.
U.S. European Command is currently conducting a THAAD missile defense system exercise deployment in Israel, which is part of US efforts to implement its operational concept & mission to assist in Israel’s aerial defense.
THAAD advanced missile defense systems and some 200 American troops have deployed to Israel as part of joint exercises. THAAD deployed from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas.
The @US_EUCOM is currently conducting a missile defense system (THAAD) exercise deployment in Israel, which is part of US efforts to implement its operational concept & mission to assist in Israel’s aerial defense. pic.twitter.com/e9z3vOLiJv
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 4, 2019
The purpose of the tactical deployment of the mobile American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Israel is “to train the ability to rapidly deploy complex systems around the world while strengthening capabilities and cooperation with the air defense systems of the Israel Air Force,” the statement said.
The deployment, which began in March, was intended to test the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy such weapons around the world, said a spokeswoman for U.S. European Command.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the arrival of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system as a sign of the U.S. commitment to Israeli security.
“The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defense systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East,” he said.
The move comes amid increased tensions between Israel and Iran over Israel’s bombing campaign in Syria and comments in which Iran’s foreign minister said he could not rule out the possibility of military conflict between the two countries.
The U.S. military said the decision to rapidly move the THAAD system to Israel was intended “as a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”
“THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world, and this deployment readiness exercise demonstrates that U.S. forces are agile and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time,” U.S. European Command said in a statement.