A strategic initiative aims to strengthen the nation’s air defense capabilities.

In a move aimed at bolstering its air defense capabilities, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) has recently unveiled plans to acquire three batteries of medium-range intercept capability (MRIC) systems. The procurement, which remains cost undisclosed, is set to include an impressive array of resources: 44 launchers, 1,840 Tamir missiles, and an additional 80 missiles for the initial prototype deployment.

Raytheon has been chosen as the sole-source contractor for this endeavor, partnering with Israel’s Rafael to introduce the MRIC system to the US military landscape. Drawing inspiration from Israel’s renowned Iron Dome system, which was developed collaboratively by Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries, the MRIC system demonstrates the fruits of international cooperation and technological innovation.

Advancing from Successful Live-Fire Tests to Development

The MRIC program’s foundation finds its roots in a series of successful live-fire tests carried out last year. These tests culminated in the Marine Corp’s approval for the next developmental phase of a mobile air defense capability, in part modeled after the Iron Dome system. This milestone was confirmed by Barbara Hamby, a spokesperson for the USMC Program Executive Officer (PEO) Land Systems.

Fiscal year 2023 is a pivotal year for MRIC, as a sequence of activities will transpire, leading to a quick reaction assessment for the MRIC prototype under the Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping framework. This assessment will serve to inform the Milestone Decision Authority of the potential for the prototype’s fielding. This initiative is driven by the growing concerns within the US military about emerging cruise missile threats and the need for rapid, effective air defense solutions.

(Image source: DVIDS)

Adapting the Iron Dome Launcher for Enhanced Mobility

Integral to this progress is the transformation of the MRIC prototype. The Marine Corps has ingeniously modified the Rafael-made Iron Dome launcher, transitioning it from a fixed position to a trailer-mounted platform capable of firing Tamir missiles. This mobile configuration has been integrated into the broader service capabilities, enhancing its adaptability and effectiveness.

Strategic Deployment Timeline: Fielding MRIC Batteries

Don Kelley, the program manager for ground-based air defense within the Land Systems PEO, has outlined the roadmap for MRIC system deployment. The first battery is anticipated to be operational by early fiscal 2025, with ambitions to equip three Marine Air Wings with an MRIC battery each by the conclusion of 2028. Despite the recent acquisition decision in December 2022, support for the MRIC program had been strong within the USMC leadership, as underscored by General Eric Smith’s endorsement prior to the series of successful live-fire tests.

“We held [off] on funding for [MRIC] for almost two years, until you can prove it,” said Smith, cited by Breaking Defense in a report earlier this year.