According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the US is testing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system in Guam over concerns that the military base in the territory could be vulnerable to Chinese ballistic missiles.
The Iron Dome is a joint project between the Israeli arms maker Rafael and the US arms maker Raytheon. The US funded the development of Iron Dome and purchased two of the systems from Israel for $373 million in 2019.
The Iron Dome is used to defend Israel from rocket fire that occasionally comes out of the besieged Gaza Strip. But the crude rockets fired at a short-range out of Gaza are much different than ballistic missiles that would be fired out of China, which is about 1,800 miles from the US base at Guam.
The Iron Dome is not expected to have much effect against China’s missiles, and its deployment to Guam appears to be a temporary measure as the US wants to develop a more sophisticated missile defense system for the island. US Indo Pacific Command is seeking an additional $27 billion in funding between 2022 and 2027 to expand its presence in the region, which includes a $1.6 billion air defense system in Guam.
Congress has approved some funds for the Guam defense system for 2022 but wants more details about the project before handing the full amount over. Although nothing has been finalized yet, the Senate’s initial version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes $77 million for a “Guam defense system.”
Pentagon leaders insist an advanced missile defense system is needed for Guam because the island would be an important staging area for a future conflict with China, an example of the US’s hostile stance towards Beijing.