The U.S. Marine Corps said it completed its last of three live-fire tests of a medium-range air defense prototype using Israeli-made Iron Dome Tamir missiles — a promising sign for the interceptor system, coming months after the service announced plans to procure it.
In the recent trial, as in the previous two trials, Marines tested whether the Tamir missiles could shoot down a variety of targets in the air when launched from the Corps’ Medium-Range Intercept Capability, or MRIC, system prototype.
The latest trial also involved launching the missiles in rapid succession, according to a press release Wednesday by Israeli defense company Rafael, which makes Tamir missiles and other components of the Iron Dome air defense system.
“The three tests that took place this year proved that the performance of the MRIC system with Iron Dome interceptors is good and provides a dedicated launcher solution for the Marines,” said Don Kelly, project manager in the Air Defense Department of the Corps’ Land Directorate, in the Rafael release.
Marines conducted the three trials at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, with the latest trial taking place on Sept. 7 and 9, according to Marine Corps spokesperson Kelly Flynn.
During that trial, “the MRIC system had a highly successful engagement against a very relevant target flying a challenging profile, pushing the capabilities of the MRIC system to the objective level,” Flynn said in a statement to Marine Corps Times.
In the second successful test, in late June, the MRIC knocked down several simulated cruise missiles approaching simultaneously at different angles and speeds. Following that test, the Corps’ No. 2 officer said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in July that the Corps would start procuring the MRIC prototype it has developed.
“We asked for a wicked solution to a wicked problem, and the MRIC provided that to us,” Gen. Eric Smith, the assistant commandant, said at the event. “And we just proved it and tested it. And now we’re going to start moving out to procure that system.”
The MRIC, which the Corps has been developing since 2018, is meant to fill the service’s gaps in medium-range air defense.
Gaining the ability to repel aerial threats at a longer range is one goal of Force Design 2030, a controversial initiative that seeks to transform the Corps into a more nimble, reconnaissance-focused force.
The Corps currently uses the Raytheon-made Stinger missile system, Smith said in July. That system can intercept threats at a range of a few miles.
The Corps hasn’t said exactly how far the MRIC will be able to reach. But it’s safe to say that the distance will be much farther than a few miles. The Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles can intercept targets up to 70 kilometers, or 43 miles away, according to the website for Raytheon, which helps produce the missiles.
MRIC relies on the Corps’ Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, or G/ATOR, as well as Iron Dome components.
“The next step in the MRIC Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototype program is a decision, anticipated in December 2022, to proceed with certification of the MRIC system prototype for deployment,” Flynn, the Marine Corps spokesperson, told Marine Corps Times.
The air defense system could be fielded as soon as 2025, defense publication Janes reported in June.
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