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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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U.S.

US Marines taking Iron Dome from the desert to the sea

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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The Iron Dome is one of the most widely deployed air defense systems in the world. It’s been protecting Israel from rockets, artillery, mortars, drones, and cruise missiles for over a decade. Now, the United States Marine Corps is expanding the reach of the Iron Dome by equipping its new littoral regiments with the short-range air defense system.

A partnership between Israel-based Rafael and U.S.-based RTX, formerly Raytheon Technologies, makes it possible to offer the Iron Dome system in the states.

The U.S. Army previously worked to incorporate the Iron Dome into its air defense systems, but the project never went into full scale production. The Marines started working to develop an Iron Dome specifically for the Corps in 2020.

The USMC calls its version the medium range intercept capability, or MRIC, system. It uses existing radar technology already deployed by the Corps and incorporates the Iron Dome’s palletized launch system into an expeditionary launcher, which is designed to be a little more maneuverable and operate in more austere locations.

The Corps reportedly has a prototype MRIC system made up of four expeditionary launchers. An image of one of the launcher prototypes shows the MRIC will launch Tamir missiles, like other Iron Dome systems.

The Tamir missile is a highly advanced interceptor. It actively communicates with radar and tracking systems after it launches so it changes course while in the air. Once the Tamir is close enough to its target, its warhead explodes in a ring of shrapnel. The ensuing blast is enough to disable everything from artillery rounds to cruise missiles.

The Iron Dome, and therefore the MRIC, is also a picky hunter. It doesn’t launch an interceptor at every incoming threat, only those that are going to hit important targets.

If an incoming threat is going to land in an open field or body of water, there’s no need to waste ammo on it.

Interceptors fired from the Iron Dome family of air defense systems hit their target around 90% of the time. The Marine Corps is confident that the same level of accuracy will be achieved when it deploys its modified Iron Dome system with the newly formed Marine Littoral Regiments.

Contracts, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, show the Marines plan to buy enough Iron Dome systems and Tamir interceptors to form three batteries worth of MRICs. One battery will be assigned to each of the three littoral regiments being created.

If the Marines are called upon in the future to fight China or Russia, it would likely be in littoral regions of the Pacific Ocean and Baltic Sea. The Marines are beefing up their ability to operate from remote islands, and air defense is an important part of the battle equation.

The Marine Corps said it will use MRICs mostly to defend its devil dogs against subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles. Of course, it will also be used to defend against the rising threats posed by unmanned aerial systems as well.

The move by the Marines to create littoral regiments is in keeping with the service’s Force Design 2030, an initiative that calls for the Marines to be able to survive and thrive inside contested spaces while dispersing its forces to decentralized locations.

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THE IRON DOME IS ONE OF THE MOST WIDELY DEPLOYED AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS IN THE WORLD. IT’S BEEN PROTECTING ISRAEL FROM ROCKETS, ARTILLERY, MORTARS, DRONES AND CRUISE MISSILES FOR OVER A DECADE. NOW, THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS IS EXPANDING THE REACH OF THE IRON DOME BY EQUIPPING ITS NEW LITTORAL REGIMENTS WITH THE SHORT-RANGE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.

A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ISRAEL-BASED RAFAEL AND U.S.-BASED RTX MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO OFFER THE IRON DOME SYSTEM IN THE STATES. THE MARINE CORPS STARTED WORKING TO DEVELOP AN IRON DOME SPECIFICALLY FOR THE SERVICE IN 2020.

THE MARINES ARE CALLING ITS VERSION THE MEDIUM RANGE INTERCEPT CAPABILITY, OR MRIC, SYSTEM. IT USES EXISTING RADAR TECHNOLOGY ALREADY DEPLOYED BY THE CORPS AND INCORPORATES THE IRON DOME’S PALLETIZED LAUNCH SYSTEM INTO AN EXPEDITIONARY LAUNCHER, WHICH IS DESIGNED TO BE A LITTLE MORE MANEUVERABLE AND OPERATE IN MORE AUSTERE LOCATIONS.

THE CORPS REPORTEDLY HAS A PROTOTYPE MRIC SYSTEM MADE UP OF FOUR EXPEDITIONARY LAUNCHERS. AN IMAGE OF ONE OF THE LAUNCHER PROTOTYPES SHOWS THE MRIC WILL LAUNCH TAMIR MISSILES, LIKE OTHER IRON DOME SYSTEMS.

THE TAMIR MISSILE IS A HIGHLY ADVANCED INTERCEPTOR. IT ACTIVELY COMMUNICATES WITH RADAR AND TRACKING SYSTEMS AFTER IT LAUNCHES SO IT CHANGES COURSE WHILE IN THE AIR. ONCE THE TAMIR IS CLOSE ENOUGH TO ITS TARGET, ITS WARHEAD EXPLODES IN A RING OF SHRAPNEL. THE ENSUING BLAST IS ENOUGH TO DISABLE EVERYTHING FROM ARTILLERY ROUNDS TO CRUISE MISSILES.

THE IRON DOME, AND THEREFORE THE MRIC, IS ALSO A PICKY HUNTER. IT DOESN’T LAUNCH AN INTERCEPTOR AT EVERY INCOMING THREAT, ONLY THOSE THAT ARE GOING TO HIT IMPORTANT TARGETS. IF AN INCOMING THREAT IS GOING TO LAND IN AN OPEN FIELD OR BODY OF WATER, THERE’S NO NEED TO WASTE AMMO ON IT.

INTERCEPTORS FIRED FROM THE IRON DOME FAMILY OF AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS HIT THEIR TARGET AROUND 90% OF THE TIME. THE MARINE CORPS IS CONFIDENT THAT SAME LEVEL OF ACCURACY WILL BE ACHIEVED WHEN IT DEPLOYS ITS MODIFIED IRON DOME SYSTEM WITH THE NEWLY FORMED MARINE LITTORAL REGIMENTS. CONTRACTS SHOW THE MARINES PLAN TO BUY ENOUGH IRON DOME SYSTEMS AND TAMIR INTERCEPTORS TO FORM THREE BATTERIES WORTH OF MRICs. ONE BATTERY WILL BE ASSIGNED TO EACH OF THE THREE LITTORAL REGIMENTS BEING CREATED.

IF THE MARINES ARE CALLED UPON IN THE FUTURE TO FIGHT CHINA OR RUSSIA, IT WOULD LIKELY BE IN LITTORAL REGIONS OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND BALTIC SEA. THE MARINES ARE BEEFING UP THEIR ABILITY TO OPERATE FROM REMOTE ISLANDS, AND AIR DEFENSE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE BATTLE EQUATION.

THE MARINE CORPS SAID IT WILL USE MRICs MOSTLY TO DEFEND ITS DEVIL DOGS AGAINST SUBSONIC AND SUPERSONIC CRUISE MISSILES. OF COURSE, IT WILL ALSO BE USED TO DEFEND AGAINST THE RISING THREATS POSED BY UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS AS WELL.

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