The US has been reportedly testing the Israeli-made Iron Dome air defense system on the Pacific island of Guam, which hosts the closest American military bases to China.
The ongoing tests in Guam are scheduled to continue until December, the Wall Street Journal has reported, without expanding on how successful they’ve been.
The Iron Dome system has been in service in Israel for a decade now, destroying thousands of makeshift projectiles fired by Hamas militants at the territory of the Jewish state.
Designed to intercept short-range rockets, artillery shells and drones, the all-weather air defense system won’t be much use against the hypersonic warhead recently tested by China.
But its deployment in Guam comes as part of a larger effort by the Pentagon to boost defenses on the island amid tensions with China over Taiwan and China’s growing influence in the Pacific region overall.
Guam is a US unincorporated territory located some 4,700 kilometers from China. The island, which hosts several US Navy and Air Force bases, as well as around 190,000 American civilians and military personnel, appears to be a logical target for a first strike by the Chinese if a conflict breaks out between Washington and Beijing.
Iron Dome, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, was put in service in Israel in 2011. The system had been significantly expanded in later years through US funding. After a heated debate in September, the US Congress approved another $1 billion to replenish Iron Dome after a flare-up with Hamas in May, which saw more than 4,000 projectiles targeting Israel.
The Americans purchased two Iron Dome batteries from Israel in 2019, cashing out $373 million for them. One had been sent to Guam, with the other remaining on the US mainland.
The Pentagon first tested Iron Dome at its White Sands range in New Mexico this summer. It successfully shot down a number of targets, including drones, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.
The deployment of the Israeli system at Guam was officially announced in October. The US military described it as a “temporary, experimental” move, saying that no live-fire drills involving Iron Dome were planned.