On Monday, the US Marine Corps completed the live-fire test of its latest air defense prototype at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The prototype was designed to counter destructive projectiles.

The Medium-Range Intercept Capability (MRIC) prototype, an air defense system adapted from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, hit the representative cruise missile targets that the Marine set simultaneously. This event is a step up from the previous testing in December, where multiple targets were launched in sequence.

In a statement, the Marine Corps said that “at its peak, numerous in-air targets, each with its own unique flight trajectory and velocity, surrounded the MRIC prototype. Upon firing, MRIC successfully hit each target using the Tamir missiles.”

Aside from assessing its intercepting capabilities, the recent live-fire test was also designed to evaluate “the primary subsystems’ integrations and the system’s overall capability to provide critical information to senior Marine Corps leadership as they decide the path forward for the MRIC prototype.”

Adapted from Israel’s Air Defense Missile System

MRIC prototype has the Iron Dome Tamir interceptor and launcher components, in conjunction with the US Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) that detects incoming projectiles and a Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) designed to assess the threat level.

Marine Corps engineered this prototype to address the emerging gap in its air defense, recognizing how “long-range cruise missiles and anti-air weapon systems begin to get better and better” and that “air supremacy” should not be taken for granted, Major James Slocum, the MRIC team lead at the PEO Land Systems, said.

“We must be able to counter these types of capabilities,” Major Slocum said.

In use since 2011, the Iron Dome is a tested and proven interceptor engineered by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries to shoot down short-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, rockets, artillery, and mortars with a range of about 70 km. It is also capable of evaluating whether or not civilians or infrastructures are at risk before counterstrike.

Life-Fire Testing of Israel's Iron Dome in 2021
(Screenshot from Wall Street Journal/YouTube)

The MRIC mobile system can carry up to ten kilograms of explosives and detect and counter an incoming attack from four to seventy kilometers away. It also includes other defense layers, namely, “the Arrow-2 and -3 systems that can stop ballistic missiles outside Earth’s atmosphere; David’s Sling missiles defense system that can shoot down tactical ballistic missiles and medium- to long-range rockets fired from ranges of 40 km to 300 km,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

90% Counterstrike Effective

According to Israeli officials, the Iron Dome defense system has about 90 percent effective against short-range attacks up to 70 km and has given the country a viable option for defense against hostiles from neighboring countries. With this, they could also shift their focus more on planning “preemptive offense” strategies against assaults that hide and target high-density civilian areas.

For decades, the US and Israel have maintained a strategic partnership in the Middle East, and the relationship has granted access to Americans to Israel’s cutting-edge defense equipment. The former has purchased two Iron Dome systems, one costing around $80,000, and used them to create the MRIC prototype.

In 2016, then-US President Barack Obama signed a Memorandum of Understanding entailing the US commitment of $38 billion in military aid, including a $5 billion missile defense budget, for the next ten years to Israel. Likewise, the memorandum has encouraged Israelis to procure more advanced US-made equipment.

Jewish lawmakers also worked on creating a safeguard to its qualitative military grade (QME), ensuring that the defense force will maintain its “superior capabilities” and decrease violence in a situation where they have to defend their nation.

Stitching the Air Defense Gap

GBAD PM Don Kelley showing off the MRIC prototype to the Marines
GBAD PM Don Kelley shows off the MRIC prototype to the Marine Corps senior leaders at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on June 30. (US Army photo by John Hamilton/DVIDS)

Following the successful live-fire test, Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) Program Manager Don Kelley said that the demonstration has proven that the USMC is now equipped with the relevant munition.

Moreover, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Pinhas Yungman, the executive vice president and general manager of the Rafael Air and Missile Defense Division, remarked that their defense system has once again proven its capability of a “seamless, optimized integration with other defense systems.”

“The marines’ live-fire test demonstrated a successful combination of an Iron Dome ground launcher, Tamir interceptor with the marines’ radar system, and battle management systems,” Yungman added.