Oct. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army does not intend to purchase additional Israeli-made Iron Dome missile defense systems, but may have to, the officer leading a missile group said.
The purchase of the interim system in the summer of 2019 was a stopgap measure, officials said, meant to meet Congress's 2023 deadline on missile defense in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act for the Army to develop its own system, or buy more Iron Domes, developed by the Israeli defense company Rafael and Raytheon Co. of the United States.
"We had nothing else out there," Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, director of the Army's Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, said of the Iron Dome purchase at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington on Tuesday. "We needed some immediate capability above the tactical level. It was developed for a very specific threat and it does incredible things."
The Army has said it will purchase more of the Israeli systems only if it has to.
"As a long-term enduring solution, absolutely not," Gibson said of the Iron Dome, calling an additional purchase "fundamentally wrong" and opposing "everything we're trying to achieve."
The system uses ground-based, non-moving installations around Israeli cities to shoot down short-range missiles.
"We intend to operate it differently," Gibson added of the Army's defense plans. "We intend to operate it in support of an Army on the move. It's not just going to be static."
The Army has concentrated its primary missile defense program, the Indirect Fire Protection Capability, on cruise missiles and similar larger threats at the expense of defense against shorter-range missiles similar to those defended against by the Iron Dome system.
The Army built prototypes of its own multimission launcher, which uses AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles to destroy incoming targets, but decided not to advance the research.
The branch prefers to build its own system of new and existing equipment in the Integrated Battle Command System. Instead of countering the small rockets and missiles plaguing Israeli cities, the system would be a platform to shoot down rockets, artillery, mortars, unmanned aircraft systems and cruise missiles.
It also requires a timeline of development, officials say.
"I see that more as a near-term decision and recommendation that we're going to seek to achieve this year," Gibson said.