Marines buy Iron Dome-based missile interceptor after successful live-fire test
On the heels of the announcement, the Marine Corps had successfully completed a live-fire test of its prototype Medium-Range Interceptor Capability, or MRIC, incorporating Israel’s Iron Dome launcher and Tamir interceptor missile, the No. 2 Corps officer hailed the breakthrough. and confirmed technology investment plans.
“We asked for a perverse solution to a pernicious problem, and MRIC provided it,” Gen. Eric Smith told an audience Monday at an event co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. and the US Naval Institute. headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland. “And we just proved it and tested it. And now we’re going to start moving to get this system.
Navy officials have called the MRIC, which aims to provide effective missile defense during expeditionary forward base operations, critical to the success of the service’s Force Design 2030 initiative.
The intercept system, based on the Marines’ AN/TPS-80 Task-Oriented Ground-to-Air Radar System, or G/ATOR and Joint Aviation Command and Control System and incorporating components from Iron Dome, the world’s most famous missile defense system, has been in development since 2018.
Force Design 2030, released by Commander General David Berger in 2020, called for a special planning team to study medium-range air defense capabilities.
With the Marine Corps’ “renewed focus” on the Indo-Pacific and its readiness for great-power competition, Berger wrote, this was an area of underservedness.
Testifying on Capitol Hill in 2022, Berger described the MRIC as being designed to counter large enemy drones, cruise missiles, and fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
“Based on ongoing operations in Ukraine and lessons learned from recent conflicts in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, we believe these [ground-based air defense] essential programs for our Marine Expeditionary Forces,” he said.
Congress has also pressured the service to bolster its air defense vulnerabilities, saying that even in current and past conflicts, this has been a matter of concern. The Fiscal Year 2021 Defense Budget directed the Commanding General of Marine Corps Combat Development Command to brief the House Armed Services Committee on efforts to develop, test, and field an interceptor system.
“The committee understands that the MRIC is intended to provide a much-needed capability to defend Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) sites primarily against cruise missiles and secondarily against manned and unmanned aircraft and other threats. airlines,” lawmakers said in the bill. “The committee is aware that missile, rocket and mortar threats have become increasingly prevalent with attacks against US forces and our allies in Iraq.”
During the recent live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on June 30, the system targeted drones simulating enemy missiles, Smith said.
“We have successfully tested three out of three. We were actually set up to do four, but the drone we were shooting broke. So we had nothing to kill with the fourth shot,” Smith said.
Officials said in an earlier release that the G/ATOR tracks each target from its launch point, relaying information through the command and control system to the Iron Dome launch components. At one point, multiple drones on unique trajectories circled the MRIC at the same time; all were effectively neutralized.
The test, according to Marine Corps officials and Iron Dome manufacturer Rafael, proved not only the accuracy of the system, but also the effectiveness of integrating the technology into the Marine Corps architecture.
Rafael said in a July 18 announcement that the MRIC performed exactly as a previous Marine Corps simulation of the test predicted.
“That takes us beyond the Stinger, which I have now: a fairly short-range air defense capability,” Smith said. “We needed a longer range air defense capability to be able to cover these highly mobile units.”
Stinger missiles manufactured by Raytheon have a maximum range of a few kilometers. Although the Marine Corps has not made public the intended range for the MRIC, Iron Dome is effective out to 70 km, or more than 40 miles.
The June 30 test followed a live-fire event in September 2021, in which targets were thrown one at a time, rather than simultaneously. A final test later in 2022 will increase threat capability and help Marines chart a course for acquiring the system.
But Smith, who said the service waited two years to invest in a medium-range interception system until it could prove its effectiveness, said the Corps now had the information it needed.
MRIC could be sent to Marines by 2025 if all goes well, Janes Defense reported earlier in 2022.
Navy budget request documents indicate plans to spend nearly $8 million in software, cyber and security testing in 2023 to deliver a deployable prototype system for development testing in 2024. Ultimately, the documents say the service plans to field one MRIC battery for each of its three low-altitude air defense battalions by FY 2028.
“Now it’s proven. Now we’re starting to get it,” Smith said. “It’s what we needed most to complete the toolbox that our commanders of the seacoast regiments will need to be more effective on the modern battlefield.” And I’m pretty excited about it.