A U.S. Air Force Airmen offloads a THAAD system from a C-17 Globe Master III at Nevatim Air Base, Israel. Photo courtesy USEUCOM
March 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. military has deployed its most advanced missile defense system to Israel as part of a joint exercise between the two allies.
In a statement Monday, the United States European Command said the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was done at the direction of acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as a sign of the United State's commitment to Israel's regional security.
"During the deployment, our service members will work in various locations throughout Israel and will practice operational procedures for augmenting Israel's existing air and missile defense architecture," the statement said.
It continued that the deployment is an example of the U.S. forces' agility to respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat the world over.
"The United States' strategic airlift capability, combined with close cooperation between the joint service community, and strong relationships with allies and partners, provides the U.S. military the ability to rapidly deploy forces anywhere in the world," it said.
THAAD is an easily transportable missile defense system capable of intercepting intermediate-, medium- and short-range missiles.
The Israel Defense Forces welcomed the missile defense technology while stressing in a statement on Twitter that it is only for defense and "is not related to any specific current event."
"The IDF is grateful for this exercise and stands ready to protect Israel's airspace and civilians against a variety of threats from near and far," the Israel Defense Forces said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that it is a show of U.S. commitment to the security of Israel.
"The American THAAD system is considered one of the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defensive systems we are even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East," he said in a statement. "The bond between the United States and Israel has never been stronger."
The deployment of THAAD in South Korea in 2017 against the North Korean threat caused protests within the country and nearby China to boycott buying Korean products and vacationing at the peninsula's tourist island of Jeju.
The USEUCOM said THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world and its deployment incorporates key capabilities, systems and personnel stationed in the United States, Europe and Israel.
The deployment of THAAD follows the end of a biennial joint Israeli-U.S. drill called Juniper Cobra.