THE US military has delivered a new type of missile to Israel for the first time as tensions with Iran dramatically escalate.
The THAAD missile defence system, which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defence systems, comes as part of a joint exercise to show the US’s “continued commitment” to Israel’s “regional security.” The hi-tech missiles will be stationed in the small country’s south – which is not far from the turbulent Gaza Strip. Two hundred US soldiers will also be posted to the area alongside the missiles.
A video released by the Israeli Defence Force shows THAAD launchers and other vehicles being unloaded from an enormous military aircraft at the Nevatim Air Base.
The THAAD system is designed to shoot down short and intermediate range ballistic missiles during their terminal phase – re-entry or descent.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was delighted, exclaiming: “The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defence systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East.”
US European Command said in a statement: “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 defence architecture.”
They added that it was a “demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”
As part of the deployment, U.S. forces will work at various locations in Europe, the United States and in Israel to operate the system in close cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces, it said. US officials declined to say how quickly the system was moved to Israel from its home base at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The move comes as tensions with Iran are at an all-time high, with both sides mutually threatening to annihilate one another.
Iran unveiled new missiles of its own last month, before holding major navy exercises in the Persian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia agreed in November to buy 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment from the United States in a separate deal valued at $15 billion.