US Marine Corps is buying its own Israeli 'Iron Dome' system

The United States Marine Corps intends to acquire 44 "Iron Dome" launchers and almost 2,000 missiles to counter aerial threats.
Christopher McFadden
IDF Air Defense personnel operating an "Iron Dome" launcher, circa 2021.

Amit Agronov/IDF/Wikimedia Commons 

The United States Marine Corps is set to purchase some Israeli "Iron Dome" systems to help bolster its defenses against cruise missile and drone threats, The Drive reports. Current plans are to buy around three batteries worth, which includes around 44 launchers and 1,840 "Tamir" interceptor missiles. While ostensibly acquired to defend against cruise missiles, the systems have also proven helpful in countering drones, rockets, and other aerial threats like artillery rounds.

Contract value undisclosed

The value of the contract has not been made publically available, but some estimates would put the contract in the $200 million ballpark. The contract was announced on the U.S. government's System for Award Management (SAM) contracting website as part of a notice about future potential sole-source deals with Raytheon. The system was originally designed by Israeli defense contractor Rafael and is sometimes called "SkyHunter." The Marine Corps has been actively pursuing acquiring a service-specific "Iron Dome" system for some time now, which they called the Medium Range Intercept Capability (MRIC).

According to the SAM, the USCM will purchase "three Batteries of MRIC systems, consisting of 1,840 Tamir missiles, 44 Expeditionary launchers integrated with Iron Dome Missile Firing Unit Launch Control Electronics (LCE), 11 mini-Battle Management and Control (mBMC) systems with uplinks compatible with the LCE and integrated with expeditionary Command and Control (C2) (i.e., the Processing and Display Subsystem (PDS) from the USMC Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S)."

Also, according to the SAM, the Marine Corps plans to buy "80 Tamir missiles" and related support for MRIC Prototype deployment. This prototype MRIC system includes expeditionary C2, four MRIC Expeditionary Launchers, and "Tamir" missiles.

The MRIC Expeditionary Launcher, as publicly shown by the Marine Corps, is a trailer-mounted version of the standard "Iron Dome" launcher. It can hold up to 20 "Tamir" interceptors preloaded in individual canisters. Each "Tamir" missile has an active radar seeker and a two-way datalink. Each missile receives updated targeting data from Iron Dome's battle management and control unit to enhance accuracy. They use high-explosive blast-fragmentation warheads with laser proximity fuzes to destroy their targets mid-air.

The estimated unit cost of Tamir varies widely among sources. Still, it is believed to be between $40,000 and $100,000, making it more affordable than many other surface-to-air missiles, including those designed to be low-cost. The Marine Corps has also successfully tested its MRIC system twice, proving its effectiveness against simulated cruise missile attacks.

"MRIC will defend... sites primarily against subsonic/supersonic Cruise Missiles (CM)" and "secondarily against other aerial threats that enter into its engagement zone," according to the Marine Corps' 2022 Aviation Plan. Together with other systems, it will help provide "a complementary defense in depth" and "be interoperable with joint service IAMD [integrated air and missile defense] capabilities, providing CM defeat not just to Marine Corps units but also the naval and joint force," it added.

"The MRIC system will leverage available surveillance radar and communication assets within the AO [area of operations] to enhance detection and identification of threats and improve situational awareness," the SAM also explains.

Ready by 2025

The Drive reports that the Marine Corps plans to achieve an early operational capability with its prototype MRIC system by Fiscal Year 2025. It also aims to field one full MRIC battery in Fiscal Years 2026, 2027, and 2028 but has not publicly disclosed a detailed schedule for acquiring the 1,840 "Tamir" interceptors that go with it.

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