US deploys THAAD system to Israel

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A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska during Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18 in Kodiak, Alaska, U.S., July 11, 2017. REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) – The US military has deployed its most advanced air and missile defense system to Israel for the first time, US and Israeli military officials said on Monday.

The deployment, which began in March, was intended to test the US military’s ability to rapidly deploy such weapons around the world, said a spokeswoman for US European Command.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the arrival of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system as a sign of the US commitment to Israeli security.

“The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defense systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East,” he said.

The move comes amid increased tensions between Israel and Iran over Israel’s bombing campaign in Syria and comments in which Iran’s foreign minister said he could not rule out the possibility of military conflict between the two countries.

The US military said the decision to rapidly move the THAAD system to Israel was intended “as a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”

“THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world, and this deployment readiness exercise demonstrates that US forces are agile and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time,” US European Command said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin, the biggest US arms maker, builds and integrates the THAAD system, which is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Raytheon, another US firm, builds its advanced radar.

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