One of the U.S. Army’s Iron Dome missile defense systems is being deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, the military announced Thursday in a press release.
Personnel needed for the missile defense deployment have arrived on Guam, the military said, but the numbers were not released publicly.
The military called it an "experimental deployment."
There was no mention of North Korea's recent missile tests or concerns about the Chinese military's rapidly expanding military muscle in the announcement of the deployment to Guam.
The deployment is anticipated to take place from mid-October through mid-December, according to Joint Region Marianas, the Guam-based military leadership.
The deployment will be executed in multiple locations and equipment may be visible in Apra Harbor, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz and Andersen AFB.
'Protect our people, ... assets'
"This experimental deployment is a tremendous opportunity to test the capability of a point defense system in the theater, assess its performance alongside existing systems, and determine for future use," said Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander, Joint Region Marianas. "A robust missile defense capability will significantly improve our defense posture and protect our people and critical assets in the region."
The government of Guam and the Guam-based leadership of the military are working with the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade to support the temporary deployment of one of the Iron Dome systems to Andersen, according to the military.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issued a joint statement with the military expressing support.
"I fully support the temporary deployment of the Iron Dome system to Guam. Additional missile defense protection in this part of the world would strengthen national security by providing another layer of protection to our current Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD," the governor said.
The Pentagon deployed the THAAD missile interceptor to Guam in 2013 when North Korea specifically mentioned Guam as a potential target.
But in recent years, the United States and its allies have been particularly concerned with China's military flexing and how that could affect the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Guam recently hosted the historic visit of the United Kingdom's carrier strike group led by its flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth following military drills with the United States, Japan, South Korea, Japan and India in the Philippine Sea, South China Sea and other parts of the Indo-Pacific.
"At a time when a free and open Indo-Pacific Region is of utmost global importance, a safe and prosperous home for Guam residents is of equal local importance. We look forward to continued work that ensures the freedom and security of our people, as One Guam with our DoD partners," the governor said.
The Iron Dome system can intercept subsonic cruise missiles, unmanned aircraft systems, rockets, artillery and mortar threats, according to the U.S. Army.
The United States has since invested some $900 million in Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, according to reports by the Tribune News Service.
Israel’s Iron Dome was frequently in the news when, in May 2021, Hamas fired more than 3,300 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, the vast majority of which were stopped by the Iron Dome.
Iron Dome is manufactured by Israeli defense company Rafael and was co-developed by Raytheon, DefenseNews has reported. The Army bought the two Iron Dome systems at the request of Congress to fill the cruise missile gap while it developed a more enduring solution to counter a variety of air and missile threats, according to DefenseNews.
Potential China threat
Questions have been raised regarding whether the truck-mounted THAAD will be adequate for protecting Guam.
On Aug. 25, Matthew Kroenig, senior policy adviser on nuclear and missile defense policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2017-2021, wrote an opinion article in The Hill, saying while the United States was preoccupied with the Afghanistan exit crisis, "it must simultaneously address more important, longer-term challenges, including deterring Chinese military aggression in the Indo-Pacific. This is why Congress should fully reinstate funding for air and missile defenses in Guam when it reconvenes in early September," Kroenig wrote.
The Chinese military, Kroenig wrote, "hopes to push American military forces out of the Indo-Pacific, giving Beijing a freer hand to engage in armed aggression against its neighbors. U.S. regional military presence is concentrated at several large military bases, including in Japan, South Korea and the U.S. territory of Guam."
"China would likely attempt to degrade U.S. military capabilities at these locations in the early stages of any conflict by overwhelming them with a broad range of missile attacks — including ballistic, cruise and hypersonic missiles. A successful missile attack would greatly blunt American military power in the region and complicate the U.S. ability to deny a Chinese victory over Taiwan," Kroenig wrote.
South Korea also buying Iron Dome
In June, South Korea approved plans to pursue a $2.6-billion interception system, similar to Israel's Iron Dome, designed to protect against North Korea's arsenal of long-range guns and rockets, Reuters reported.
Late last year, the South Korean government's defense blueprint called for the development of a "Korean-style Iron Dome" that can defend Seoul and key facilities, Reuters reported.