One of the most beneficial partnerships between the United States and Israel is in the area of missile defense. Aerospace and defense companies, which make up one of the most important segments of Arizona’s manufacturing economy, are making the world a safer place as a result of their work in Israel.
On my recent trip to Israel as part of a delegation with Gov. Doug Ducey, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about current missile defense technology and the stakes and benefits for both countries when our group visited an Iron Dome battery in Ashkelon. Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is the lead producer of the Iron Dome system that has a more than 90 percent success rate in identifying and knocking down short-range enemy rockets out of the sky.
Learning about the advanced technology up close was especially fascinating for me given my family’s firsthand experience with the game-changing missile defense technology during a vacation trip to Israel in the summer of 2014. On several occasions during that trip, a siren would go off, my family would go to a shelter, Iron Dome would work its magic and in a short time we would be back to eating hummus and visiting with family and friends.
Throughout that summer’s storm of rockets into Israel, the Iron Dome protected the residents of Ashkelon and allowed them continue with a fairly normal life. The success of the system can be measured in part by the fact that the city, which is relatively close to Gaza, continues to thrive.
Our delegation in Ashkelon visits an Iron Dome site
During this year’s visit to Ashkelon, we met with a 20-year-old soldier tasked with deciding where to deploy the Iron Dome. Because the technology is not cheap, it functions by only launching when an incoming rocket is identified as a risk to human life or strategic assets. The soldier who gave us the briefing was intelligent, calm, and wise well beyond his years. Later in our visit we had the chance to tour Rafael Defense Systems and learn more about Iron Dome and the next generation protective system, David’s Sling, which defends against medium-range missiles. Raytheon, southern Arizona’s top defense sector employer, joins Rafael in developing David’s Sling, which will be ready for deployment in the coming months. In addition to Iron Dome and David’s Sling, Israel has the Arrow system, which is designed to defend against long-range missiles and also has U.S. research-based support to guard against airborne threats.
There’s a clear win-win here. Many American military experts have said that Israel’s involvement in missile defense has dramatically accelerated the readiness of life-saving technology. U.S. support, both financial and through the work of our top defense companies, is essential so Israel can afford life-saving defense equipment. Keep in mind that Israel has a population of 8 million with an economy that is in the range of Arizona’s GDP, around $270 billion.
When the U.S. and Israel work together, both countries benefit. The missile threat to the U.S., while not as severe or seemingly pressing as Israel’s, is real and growing with danger posed by North Korea, which likely has the ability for a missile to reach the U.S. Not to mention future proliferation that is likely as a result of the recent Iran deal.
While on our trip, Gov. Ducey made clear that he will assist in any way possible to ensure that these programs that are vital to our collective security and important to Arizona’s economy, are strongly supported. This technology in today’s world is not a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have; it’s a barrier against calamaties ranging from merely bad to completely catastrophic.