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The Iron Dome Air Defense System Is Heading To Guam
The U.S. Army is sending Iron Dome to Guam amid discussions about how to improve the island's air and missile defenses in the face of Chinese threats.
By Joseph Trevithick October 8, 2021

The U.S. Army is deploying one of two air defense batteries equipped with the Israeli-made Iron Dome system to Guam. The decision to send Iron Dome systems comes as the U.S. military continues to explore options to expand its air and missile defenses on this highly strategic island in the Pacific as part of broader efforts to deter China in the Indo-Pacific region. The latest versions of the Iron Dome system, which was originally designed to intercept incoming rockets and other artillery rounds, also have a demonstrated ability to shoot down small drones and low-flying cruise missiles.
The 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), which is based in Hawaii, announced the deployment, which it described as "temporary" and "experimental," earlier this week. Troops from the 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, out of Fort Bliss, Texas, will operate the Iron Dome battery on Guam. Elements of the Army's 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, forward-deployed in Japan, will also support this deployment, which has been nicknamed Operation Iron Island.

The Army has made no secret that a major impetus for this deployment was a requirement in the annual defense policy bill, or National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for the 2021 Fiscal Year. Members of Congress had directed the service to send an Iron Dome battery to an "operational theater" by the end of this year.

"Soldiers and equipment ... will deploy in order to fulfill those NDAA requirements, test the capabilities of the system, and further train and refine the deployment capabilities of air defenders," according to a brief press release. "There is currently no plan to conduct a live fire of the system while it is on Guam."
At the same time, the potential threat, broadly, posed by cruise missiles, including advanced supersonic and potential future hypersonic anti-ship and land-attack types, as well as various tiers of drones, is only increasing. Iron Dome would, at least on a limited, interim level, help bolster defenses against these target sets, on Guam right now. Submarines and surface warships, as well as even just modified counter ships, along with long-range missile carrier aircraft, could launch salvos of land-attack cruise missiles at the island during a potential future major crisis, especially one involving China.
It is worth noting that drones, especially, present very real threats outside of the bounds of traditional conflicts, as well. As The War Zone was the first to report, there were multiple incursions by unidentified small drones over the THAAD battery on the island in 2019, underscoring the multi-faceted challenges that small unmanned aircraft present already.

The Army Wants Israel's Iron Dome Missile System To Swat Down Cruise Missiles By Joseph Trevithick Posted in The War Zone

Guam's New Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System Could Go Underground And Mobile By Joseph Trevithick Posted in The War Zone

Israel Admits Iron Dome Battery Shot Down One Of Its Own Drones During Gaza Fighting By Joseph Trevithick Posted in The War Zone

Continuous Mass Rocket Attacks Pose New Challenges For Israel's Iron Dome System By Joseph Trevithick Posted in The War Zone

Upgraded Israeli Iron Dome Defense System Swats Down 100 Percent Of Targets In Tests By Joseph Trevithick Posted in The War Zone

The Army first announced plans to acquire two Iron Dome batteries in 2019 primarily as an interim cruise missile defense system, with an eye toward purchasing more as time went on. A complete Iron Dome system consists of multiple launch units, each capable of holding up to 20 Tamir interceptors at a time, along with radars to detect and track targets and a battle management and control unit. Tamir is a highly maneuverable missile that contains an active radar seeker to help find its target, as well as two-way datalink that enables it to get updated targeting information from the battle management and control unit in-flight, improving its accuracy. The interceptor uses a ring-shaped high-explosive blast-fragmentation warhead, triggered by a laser proximity fuze, to actually destroy incoming threats. You can read more about Tamir and its capabilities here.

However, in 2020, the service pumped the brakes on those plans and ultimately decided against purchasing any more Iron Dome systems, ostensibly over issues integrating it with the new Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) network architecture, which you can read more about in this past War Zone feature.
In September of this year, Dynetics announced the Army had awarded it a contract to supply a system called Enduring Shield system to meet the service's various cruise missile defense and counter-drone requirements as part of its Indirect Fires Protection Capability (IFPC) program. The company's offering beat out Iron Dome, which a team consisting of that system's Israeli manufacturer Rafael and U.S. defense contractor Raytheon had submitted to the IFPC competition, albeit rebranded as SkyHunter. The Dynetics system will, at least initially, use the AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile as its interceptor.
It's worth noting that the AIM-9X is a significantly more expensive choice compared to Tamir, with the latest subvariants of this Sidewinder version having units costs in the $450,000 range. Though the exact cost of the Israeli interceptors is unclear, past reports have put their price tag at between $40,000 and $100,000.



A rendering of two launch units associated with Dynetics Enduring Shield defense system firing AIM-9X Sidewinders.

In the meantime, the Army has still been dutifully establishing an interim capability with its new Iron Dome systems, the first of which was delivered in September 2020. The service had announced in August of this year that troops from 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, also based at Fort Bliss, Texas, had conducted the first live-fire tests of what it has dubbed the Iron Dome Defense System-Army (IDDS-A), at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. "Soldiers ... successfully engaged eight cruise missile surrogate targets as part of a coordinated performance test and live fire event," according to a statement at that time.

Even with all this in mind, the deployment of Iron Dome to Guam does make good sense from testing and operational perspectives. As already noted, the U.S. military is presenting developing a plan to expand air and missile defenses on this island in the face of growing potential threats, particularly from China.
There has been discussion about adopting a distributed, potentially mobile approach rather than establishing a singular new fixed missile defense based on the existing Aegis Ashore architecture, as you can read more about here. As it stands now, there is already an Army battery equipped with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the island, which provides a measure of ballistic missile defense, but certainly not enough to defeat a high volume strike.
The various components of the Army's Iron Drone system are all palletized and are therefore capable of being readily moved around on and off-road using variants of the Oshkosh Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT). This would offer a way to explore methods of employing more dynamic air missile defenses on Guam that could help inform future planning.


US Army

A US Army Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) carrying a radar associated with the Iron Dome system.


US Army

An Army HEMTT-series truck carrying a palletized command van that is part of the service's Iron Dome system.

The tactics, techniques, and procedures the service has been developing for Iron Dome would likely be applicable, at least to a degree, to the employment of other similar systems, such as Dynetics' Enduring Shield, in the future, as well.
All told, while Iron Dome's future with the Army is anything but certain, there is much the Army stands to glean from this initial, experimental deployment of this system to Guam.
Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com

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Veteran Member
Can anybody here give weather trends for the South China Sea? When is "war season" in that part of the world?


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Asia Pacific
Taiwan president to pledge defence of sovereignty, democracy

2 minute read

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends a gala on the eve of Taiwan's National Day at Hsinchu Air Force Base in Hsinchu, Taiwan October 9, 2021. REUTERSN/Ann Wang

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends a gala on the eve of Taiwan's National Day at Hsinchu Air Force Base in Hsinchu, Taiwan October 9, 2021. REUTERSN/Ann Wang

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends a gala on the eve of Taiwan's National Day at Hsinchu Air Force Base in Hsinchu, Taiwan October 9, 2021. REUTERSN/Ann Wang

  • Summary
  • Taiwan faces toughest challenges ever, president to say
  • China has pledged 'peaceful reunification' with Taiwan
  • Taiwan president to say no backing down on sovereignty
TAIPEI, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pledge to defend the island's sovereignty and democracy in a major speech on Sunday, saying it faces challenges more complex and severe than ever, at a time when tensions with China have risen.

Democratic Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has come under increasing military and political pressure from Beijing, which included this month four straight days of mass incursions by China's air force into Taiwan's air defence identification zone.

According to an outline of her national day speech on Sunday, as described to Reuters by a source briefed on its contents, Tsai will say Taiwan is at the front lines of defending democracy and faces unprecedented complicated and severe challenges.

Tsai will reiterate Taiwan's full determination to defend itself and maintain regional peace and stability, and also stress Taiwan will not "advance rashly".

But when it comes to Taiwan's sovereignty, there can be no backing down, she will say.

Speaking earlier on Saturday in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to realise "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan and did not directly mention the use of force after the week of tensions with the island that sparked international concern. read more

Taiwan reacted angrily to the speech, saying only Taiwan's people have the right to decide their own future, and decrying China's coercive tactics.

China refuses to speak to Tsai, re-elected by a landslide last year on a promise to stand up to Beijing, believing she is a separatist.

Tsai says Taiwan is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.

She has made strengthening Taiwan's defences a cornerstone of her administration to enable it to mount a more credible deterrence to China which is ramping up an ambitious modernisation programme of its own military.

Tsai spent Saturday evening at a national day reception at the Hsinchu air base in northern Taiwan, where she thanked the armed forces for their efforts to defend the island.

Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ann Wang in Hsinchu, Taiwan; editing by Philippa Fletcher
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


northern watch

TB Fanatic
The Economist explains
Does America have troops in Taiwan?

Having left in 1979, America is quietly giving the island more support


The Economist
Oct 8th 2021

ON APRIL 26TH 1979 the United States Taiwan Defence Command lowered its flag for the last time, after 25 years on the island. A week later the last American soldier departed, leaving Taiwan, it seemed, to fend for itself against the People’s Republic of China. The command’s headquarters is now the site of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. But on October 7th the Wall Street Journal reported that American special forces and marines had been on the island for over a year, training Taiwanese forces. The news, which came amid growing Chinese shows of force in the airspace around Taiwan, caused a stir.


When China’s Communist Party won the civil war in 1949, the losing nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan, previously called Formosa. Though the island had been ruled by Japan for most of the previous 50 years, China claimed the territory as part of its new republic. In 1954 America and Taiwan signed a treaty that saw American troops and nuclear weapons defend the island. As many as 30,000 troops were stationed there during the Vietnam war.

That all changed in 1971, when the Nixon administration initiated a rapprochement with China in order to isolate the Soviet Union. As part of that opening, America switched its diplomatic representation from Taipei to Beijing and agreed to eventually withdraw from the island entirely. It did so by 1979, although the same year Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act requiring American governments to sell “defensive” arms to Taiwan.

Since then, America has not had a large military presence on the island. But it has not been absent, either. When the American Institute in Taiwan, a de facto embassy, opened its new site in 2019, a spokeswoman acknowledged that marines—which guard embassies worldwide—and active duty personnel from the army, navy and air force had been “detailed” to the mission for the previous 14 years.

Their presence is hidden in plain sight. A routinely updated document published by the Pentagon shows that, as of June 30th, there were 23 marines “permanently assigned” to Taiwan, as well as two members of the navy and five of the air force. Many other service members visit for shorter periods. A source told The Economist in 2018 that around 3,500-4,000 Pentagon officials travelled to Taiwan every year.

Nor is it a revelation that some of these visitors hone Taiwan’s military skills. America sells Taiwan lots of weapons—a $750m package was approved in August, on top of $5bn last year—and these typically require training to maintain and operate. In November, Taiwan’s navy mistakenly let slip that American marine special forces had been training Taiwanese counterparts in “assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations” at the Tsoying naval base in south-east Taiwan—tactics that would help counter a Chinese invasion. American special forces have conducted such training for many years, says a source familiar with the initiatives.

Even so, the press reports of America’s military presence on the island, and its assistance to Taiwanese forces, come at a sensitive moment. On October 6th Taiwan’s defence minister warned that China could invade by 2025, when the “cost and attrition” of an attack would be manageable.

China will surely argue that America's alleged military involvement in Taiwan represents a breach of the understandings between America and China that have helped keep the peace across the Taiwan Strait for decades. America might retort that China's increasingly aggressive behaviour towards the island requires a response. To America's government, sending a signal of support to Taiwan might be the sort of gesture that helps keep the peace for longer. It is a delicate balance—between deterrence and provocation—that will define the region for years to come.

Does America have troops in Taiwan? | The Economist


Live free and survive
Here is a thought... Taiwan's president should say, i'm open to uniforcation talks with the CCP. We should make all of China a democracy.


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China Tests Both Taiwan and the US
Seth Cropsey & Harry Halem

Since last Friday, 1 October, the Chinese Communist Party has escalated its incursions into Taiwanese airspace. Initially, this coincided with China’s “National Day” on 1 October, marking the PRC’s founding. However, PLA incursions continued after 1 October. From 1-3 October, the People’s Liberation Army executed five major incursions into Taiwanese airspace, each of which was conducted with a dozen or more aircraft, the largest of which included 25 aircraft. Then, on 4 October, China conducted a 52-aircraft incursion into Taiwanese airspace, the largest operation of its kind that the PLA has ever conducted. The location of these incursions, and the strike packages dispatched, indicate that the CCP’s actions are more than mere saber-rattling or domestic grandstanding. Rather, these actions are a calculated attempt to test Taiwanese defenses, identify weak points, and gather tactical and operational intelligence for a future attack on the island republic.

PLA incursions into Taiwanese airspace should come as no surprise to observers of international events. In 2020, PLA aircraft violated Taiwanese airspace 380 times on 91 separate days. Up to October 2020 alone, the PLA flew over 1,700 sorties into Taiwanese airspace, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence. These numbers alone indicate a concerted Chinese strategy of some sort.

This strategy becomes intelligible when three factors are considered.

First, since 2019 the PLA has violated the Taiwan Strait’s “Mid-Line” in nearly every incursion, major or minor. The PLA did not violate the mid-line, the de facto maritime border between Taiwan and China, very often before 2019 – despite its expanding capabilities, and before 2019 Party leadership appeared to doubt the PLA’s capacity to gain air supremacy over the Taiwan Strait in an escalating conflict. The PLA’s most recent violations continue this trend of increased pressure.

Second, since the PLA escalated the tempo and scale of its violations in 2020, the composition of PLA strike forces has changed. The most frequent airspace violations remain small, and flights typically include one to two surveillance or maritime patrol aircraft, at times with fighter escort. Like those during the summer of 2020 and over the past three weeks, the most notable violations are much larger. Force composition in the largest six violations since the last full week of September is illustrative. China conducted the 23 September violation with 19 aircraft, including 12 J-16 fighters, two J-11 fighters, two Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, one Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft, and two H-6 strategic bombers. The PLA conducted eight more violations between 23 September and 1 October, none with more than six aircraft.

However, the five violations from 1-3 October had a similar force composition to the 23 September violation. On 1 October, the largest incursion of 25 aircraft included 18 J-16s, four Su-30s, two H-6s, and one Y-8 ASW aircraft. The second incursion that day included 13 aircraft: 10 J-16s, two H-6s, and one KJ-500 AEW aircraft. The next day, the PLA conducted two incursions with a total of 29 aircraft. The first flight was comprised of 14 J-16s, four Su-30s, and two Y-8 ASW aircraft; the second 12 J-16s, six Su-30s, and one KJ-500. The fifth and most recent incursion of 16 aircraft occurred on 3 October, which unsurprisingly included eight J-16s, four Su-30 multi-role fighters, two Y-8 ASW aircraft, and two KJ-500s. These force composition similarities are remarkable. Each air group from 1-3 October, like the 23 September violation, has included a major fighter component screening a combination of strategic bombers, ASW aircraft, and AEW platforms. Indeed, this force composition is similar to another major violation, the 15 June 28 aircraft operation that flew along Taiwan’s eastern coastline.

Third, every violation that the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence has reported since June has pressured the exact same spot. China is targeting the southwest of Taiwan’s ADIZ, threatening the supply and communications line between Taiwan island and the Pratas Islands, Taipei’s claimed territory in the South China Sea. It is also targeting the Bashi Channel, the maritime link between Taiwan and the Philippine Archipelago, and one of two access points to the Philippine Sea for the PLA Navy.

Taken together, these three factors indicate a clear pattern. Over the past two years, the PLA has become far more aggressive, no longer simply probing in the South China Sea but also bracketing Taiwan with ground-based air forces. Its major airspace violations have escalated in intensity and scale – each of them is now a legitimate strike package, including a mix of anti-submarine aircraft and nuclear-capable bombers, escorted by a large fighter screen. And each violation now probes southwestern Taiwan.

The PLA reinforced this pattern with its actions on 4 October. Once again, the PLA Air Force threatened southwestern Taiwan, pressuring Taipei’s line of communications with its forces stationed on Pratas Island and raising the possibility of a broader offensive through the Bashi Channel. This flight, however, was of greater scale than any of its predecessors. It included 34 J-16s and two Su-30s – between two and three fighter squadrons, depending upon precise echeloning – two Y-8 ASW aircraft, two KJ-500 (AEW) aircraft, and twelve H-6 bombers.

The PLA’s actions have two clear purposes. First, the PLA Air Force seeks to wear down its Taiwanese counterpart by maintaining a high operational tempo, much as the China coast guard has done to the Vietnamese, Philippine, and Japanese navies and coast guards in the South and East China Seas. Last year, policing Chinese airspace violations cost Taiwan $1.09 billion (USD), around nine percent of its defense budget. The Taiwanese Air Force has 17 total fighter squadrons. But only six are equipped with F-16s, while five fly indigenously built F-CK-1Cs, three mid-Cold War F-5s, and three late-Cold War Mirage-2000s. By comparison, the PLA Air Force operates 10 fighter brigades in its Eastern Theatre Command, along with a bomber division and several attack brigades. This enables the PLA’s higher operational tempo, increasing the wear and tear on Taiwan’s air forces. The results of this strategy are already apparent: Taiwan temporarily grounded its F-5 fleet earlier this year after three crashes within six months.

The strategic location of this pressure indicates a second purpose, that of intelligence gathering. Once again, Taiwan has a limited first-rate fighter fleet. While the F-CK-1Cs are worthy aircraft, they are less advanced than Taiwan’s F-16s, despite their upgrades since the early 2000s. And Taiwan still relies on three F-5 and three Mirage-2000 squadrons for air defense – that is, just over a third of its air superiority fighter squadrons risk being outmatched in an air campaign against China. Additionally, a Chinese attack on Taiwan is likely to begin with a simultaneous air campaign and missile bombardment intended to destroy as many Taiwanese fighters as possible on the ground, or at least destroy runways and hangar facilities. Thus, the Taiwanese must carefully select which aircraft are used for which missions. Major Chinese airspace incursions allow the PLA to observe how Taiwan reacts to various strike packages and estimate which aircraft it will deploy first in a broader conflict.

There is, of course, a final motivation for the PLA’s behavior. Despite U.S. partisan vitriol, domestic squabbling, the existential language of political debate, and the reality of limited strategic bandwidth, the CCP correctly assumes that the U.S. will participate in a cross-strait conflict. Japan will as well, given its increasing public resolve to do so and its explicit political and diplomatic engagement with Taiwan. The PLA is a capable military force in certain respects. Quantitatively and qualitatively, it outclasses nearly every regional adversary. Given the disparity between Philippine, Vietnamese, and Chinese forces and the lack of American forward-deployment to the South China Sea, the PLA likely will be able to establish air and sea control in the South China Sea early in an Indo-Pacific war. Similarly, the PLA’s missile arsenal and amphibious assault force are at this point large enough to launch a standing-start first strike against Taiwan and begin an invasion of the island, despite the unclear balance between Taiwanese and PLA ground forces. The Taiwanese Navy, moreover, has only two operational submarines, Dutch-built boats that have three decades of service each. In a direct cross-strait conflict absent external participation, the PLA could achieve the CCP’s strategic objectives.

External intervention transforms this calculation, given the air combat power of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups and the lethality and survivability of American and Japanese submarines – and perhaps even other allied submarines, given the increasing desire the U.K. and Australia have shown to counter China militarily. Defeating these submarines requires a comprehensive anti-submarine dragnet comprised of land-based ASW aircraft and ASW-capable surface combatants. Moreover, despite the range of Chinese ground-launched missiles, the PLA’s most numerous anti-ship weapon remains shorter-range air and ground-launched cruise missiles. The PLA Navy’s two CSGs have limited air wings with restricted ranges since the Type-001 and Type-002 lack a catapult launching mechanism. And the PLA Air Force fields too few tanker aircraft to support extended ground-based fighter operations further into the Philippine Sea, operations that would be critical to combating a U.S. CSG.

A large enough H-6 flight, equipped with air-launched cruise missiles, could remedy this range issue for the PLA. Protected by a robust fighter screen, coordinated by AWACS aircraft, and working in conjunction with ASW aircraft and surface combatants, the PLA Air Force can dispatch a force to Taiwan’s east, simultaneously threatening the island from a different angle and pressuring American CSGs in the western Philippine Sea. It is remarkable that the PLA’s 52-strong air group used to violate Taiwanese airspace on 4 October was comprised of precisely the aircraft needed to attack an American carrier and its escorts.

Is the current administration, the U.S., and its Navy on the war footing needed to defend against the attacks China is evidently preparing for?

Read in RealClear Defense

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Taiwan in all spheres plans to confront #China in the event of a military scenario. The national Navy has two high-speed (40 knots) corvettes of the Tuo Chiang type, and by 2023 their number is planned to be increased to six units. An original technical stealth solution