A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the US Congress have called on the US military to immediately purchase the Iron Dome, a short-range rocket interception system developed by Israel.
Congressional representatives Grace Meng and Peter Roskam authored this week a letter that was signed by 40 other lawmakers asking the Pentagon to invest $500 million in Israeli missile and rocket systems in the upcoming 2019 fiscal year.
"US-Israel missile defense cooperation is a critical investment in the safety and security of Israel and stability in the Middle East,” Roskam said in a press release on Saturday, claiming that Israel’s test launches of the missile system indicated its reliability.
The letter was addressed to the House of Representative Appropriations Subcommittee and stated that the purchase and the investment would help US forces abroad protect themselves from “aggressive” countries like Russia and North Korea.
“Today, our forces face challenges from an emboldened, aggressive, and increasingly militarized Russia, North Korea, and other adversaries heightening our immediate need for advanced missile defense systems to protect our forward-based forces and key fixed installations,” Roskam noted.
“Adoption by the [US] Army of Iron Dome could provide an important near-term capability to US forces as well as a surge production capacity if we or Israel required the system in a time of crisis," he argued.
The system passed its first ever trials in the US in September last year at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
In real combat situations, however, the system has had difficulty intercepting and targeting simple, unguided Palestinian rockets.
The Iron Dome, designed by Israel’s Rafael weapons manufacturer, uses Tamir interceptor missiles, largely produced by Raytheon, a major US arms company.
The US had previously considered deploying Tamir batteries across Europe as a deterrence against Russia.
The $500 million asked by the lawmakers is separate from Washington’s annual military and economic aid to Israel.
Under the latest aid package, Tel Aviv will receive $3.8 billion annually for the next 10 years, consisting of $3.3 billion in military aid and $500 million for the regime’s missile and rocket programs.
The US will pay Israel a total of $705 million for missile development in 2018, far more than the $147 million that Trump had initially requested. Congress increased the amount upon Israel’s request.
From 2019 onwards, however, Israel will no longer be able to ask Congress to raise US military aid beyond the amount stipulated in the memorandum of understanding that the two allies signed in 2016 under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.