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The UK could need an Israeli-style Iron Dome air defense system, says former US national security advisor

Rebecca Rommen   

The UK could need an Israeli-style Iron Dome air defense system, says former US national security advisor
  • The UK is considering developing an air defense system akin to Israel's Iron Dome.
  • Former top US general says the UK needs to boost defense spending.

Former US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster has said the UK must prepare for possible future conflicts by building an Israeli-style Iron Dome air defense system.

Gen. McMaster, who served as national security adviser between 2017 and 2018, told the UK news radio outlet, LBC, this week: "I think it's quite urgent for the United Kingdom, the United States, for all nations to invest more in defense."

Asked whether the UK should have an Iron Dome system, which Israel invented to intercept rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah militants, he said: "I think that every country is going to have to develop these kinds of defenses and long-range missiles."

Indeed, the UK is considering developing its own Iron Dome air defense system amid growing tensions with Russia and its allies.

Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, head of Britain's Armed Forces, told LBC last month that the UK is in "live conversations" about developing an air defense system like Israel's.

As Europe faces increasing geopolitical insecurity, the UK has to grapple with its inadequate air defense capabilities.

Michael Clarke, a defense and security analyst, told Business Insider that if the UK and its European allies can't defend themselves, any operations they threaten to engage in will lack credibility.

The best way to confront impending conflict is to deter it, Clarke said.

The UK and its allies need to be prepared for anything, especially as the CRINKs alliance (China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea) grows stronger, he said

While Russia is the UK's primary concern, Clarke said the CRINKs are collectively "determined to try to undermine western-based structures of international politics and rules-based systems."

The Israeli model

The Times of London said senior members of the UK government, have called for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to install an Iron Dome-style missile defence system for the UK.

Israel's short-range Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air defense system that has been in service since 2011.

The formidable system boasts a success rate of up to 90% and was most recently instrumental in intercepting a barrage of missiles and attack drones launched from Iran at Israel.

However, developing a system that replicates Israel's is a costly endeavor, Clarke said. "Israel is a small country," he said, less than 10% the size of the UK.

"Israel spent a great deal of money on a three-tier system that still needs help to be effective. So, the scale of the challenge of defending airspace is huge. The fact that the Israelis can play this game of saying 'we have a dome over our whole country' is only partly true," he said.

The UK's only practical option was a "point defense" strategy, said Clarke. Point defense refers to defending a limited area or single site against threats like air attacks and guided missiles. It is more narrow and strategic than area defense.

"Can't we finally strike at London?"

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russian propaganda has threatened the possibility of war with the UK, a staunch backer of Ukraine.

On a state-owned channel, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, chairman of the nationalist Rodina political party, said, "one Sarmat missile and the British Isles will be no more," Newsweek reports.

The RS-28 Sarmat is a Russian liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile made by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau.

On another occasion, Kremlin propagandist and Putin ally Vladimir Solovyov asked, "Can't we finally strike at London?"

The UK is set to increase defense spending to 2.5% by 2030, totaling £87 billion a year.

Aside from internal discussions on an Iron Dome, the UK is in talks to join Europe's aerial defense system. The European Sky Shield Initiative seeks to establish a ground-based integrated European air defense system with anti-ballistic missile capability.

Business Insider contacted the UK Ministry of Defense for comment.

The prospect of a strategic defeat in Ukraine raises the possibility of more crises with Russia around the fringes of Europe, in which European and NATO forces in the Baltic states and other regions could mobilize.

But mobilization won't be credible without an air defense system to serve as a deterrent, according to Clarke.

"If Britain deployed its combat division to the continent and fought against the Russians, it would become combat-ineffective within 24 hours if it was subject to air attack," Clarke said.

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