Israel's Iron Dome loses out in US Army tender

Iron Dome

US company Dynetics won the tender for a rocket defense system even though its product is still under development.

Just when US president Joe Biden was declaring at his meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he supported replenishment of Israel's stock of Tamir interceptor missiles (known in the US as SkyHunter) for its Iron Dome rocket defense system, which was depleted during the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas (Operation Guardian of the Walls), the US Army announced that it had selected a different rocket defense system in a tender worth billions of dollars. The winning system is a development by US company Dynetics, in partnership with Raytheon Technologies.

The choice is surprising, given that Iron Dome is a ready system, proven successful in battle conditions, with thousands of interceptions achieved and a hit rate nearing 90%. Recent trials of the system carried out on US soil showed a hit rate of 100%. Moreover, the system that was selected is not yet ready; its development is expect to be complete only in two years' time at the earliest, and it is much more expensive than the Iron Dome C-RAM multi-mission system offered to the US military.

These curious facts should assist Iron Dome's producer Rafael (together with Israel Aerospace Industries unit Elta, which produces the system's radar component) and its partner Raytheon in submitting comments on the decision, which was announced at the end of last week, although their chances of overturning it are not high. The chances are made lower by the fact that Raytheon is also a partner of Dynetics, meaning that it wins either way, although it is the lead partner with Rafael, whereas it is only a sub-contractor with Dynetics. Rafael will try to persuade its US partner to try to fight the decision, but it would appear that the US military resorted to its default position of preferring US-produced equipment. This is despite the fact that many of the components of the Tamir missile are manufactured in the US, and the US government has invested nearly $2 billion in development and production of the Iron Dome system, most of it in Israel.

The US Army already has two Iron Dome batteries, but they have not yet been deployed operationally, even though such a system was needed in Afghanistan before the withdrawal and in Iraq. Perhaps this hinted at the fact that US military decision makers preferred not to go with Iron Dome, as operational success with it could have undermined a decision to buy the competing system.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 29, 2021

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