TEL AVIV, Israel – A U.S. military officer said Tuesday that a major missile defense exercise staged by American and Israeli forces will help the development of a planned NATO missile shield for Europe.
Some 2,000 U.S. and Israeli personnel are holding maneuvers this week and next to test technology that would protect Israel from a missile attack, setting up radar arrays along the coast and deploying naval vessels offshore. The allies plan to conduct a live-fire test during the exercise.
U.S. Army Col. Tony English told reporters visiting a coastal battery on the edge of Tel Aviv on Tuesday that it was the first major exercise integrating THAAD and Patriot ground-to-air missiles and the ship-launched Aegis system.
"This is the most complete air missile defense system we've ever done anywhere in the world," he said.
President Barack Obama announced last month that he was scrapping a Bush-era plan which would have put missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic, a program deeply opposed by nearby Russia.
In its place he proposed a reduced missile system linked to NATO. The Poles and the Czechs have said they will take part.
NATO has praised the proposal as offering a defense from potential Iranian missile threats.
The plan calls for U.S. Navy ships equipped with anti-missile weapons to form a front line of defense in the eastern Mediterranean. Those would be combined with land-based anti-missile systems to be placed in Europe.
In Tel Aviv, English said the U.S.-Israeli exercise, codenamed Juniper Cobra 10, would benefit a future European deployment.
"We're going to learn a lot of lessons here that will definitely apply to that later system," he said.