The United States is testing Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system on the island of Guam as military officials remain concerned about possible missile tests and attacks by China, according to a new report.
The defense system, which Israel used earlier this year to shield its people from missile and mortar attacks by Islamist terror groups in the Gaza Strip, is part of the Biden administration’s drive to increase their presence in the Pacific, according to a Tuesday report by the Wall Street Journal.
News of the test comes after multiple top US military officials have issued warnings over China’s increasing military capabilities following Beijing’s reported test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile.
“What you need to be worried about is that in the last five years, or maybe longer, the United States has done nine hypersonic missile tests, and in the same time the Chinese have done hundreds,” Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in October.
“The pace they’re moving and the trajectory they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it. It will happen.”
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also raised concerns last month.
“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley said. “I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that. It has all of our attention.”
Guam is home to two US military bases, which sit approximately 1,800 miles from China — closer than any others on American soil.
“If we can’t defend Guam—the air base and the other things there—it’s really hard to project power into the Pacific,” Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Journal.
Congress purchased two Iron Dome Defense systems in 2019 for approximately $373 million, at least one of which had to be deployed no later than the end of this year.
In October, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command announced the “temporary, experimental deployment” of one of the Iron Dome Defense systems purchased. The second system remains in the continental US.
“Soldiers and equipment from the 2-43 Air Defense Artillery Battalion from Fort Bliss, Texas will deploy in order to fulfill those NDAA requirements, test the capabilities of the system, and further train and refine the deployment capabilities of air defenders,” the command said in a statement.
They added: “There is currently no plan to conduct a live fire of the system while it is on Guam.”
Military forces will remain on Guam through December to learn how to operate and merge the Iron Dome with other defenses, according to the Journal.
Iron Dome is designed to intercept and destroy short-range missiles and artillery from up to around 40 miles away. However, Karako believes it will be unable to intercept the fastest cruise missiles — which he said travel on “flat, direct paths” difficult to follow — and describes it as an “interim solution.”
The Journal reports that the system has intercepted cruise missiles traveling below the speed of sound, destroying eight cruise-missile targets at a range in New Mexico in August.
The US is reportedly also looking for alternatives to the Iron Dome. This fall, Huntsville, Ala.-based Dynetics was commissioned to create prototypes of similar defense systems.
In September, the House passed a bill providing $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome, after it was removed from a short-term funding bill by progressives.
Far-left lawmakers, including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) voted against the funding, citing support for the Palestinian cause.
“I will not support an effort to enable and support war crimes, human rights abuses, and violence,” said Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress. “We cannot talk be talking only about Israelis need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes.”