The United States military announced Monday that it has deployed its most advanced air and missile defense system to Israel for the first time in its history.
Lockheed Martin has received an nearly $946 million Missile Defence Agency Foreign Military Sale contract to provide the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system to Saudi Arabia, the Department of Defence said in a release. THAAD's exo-atmospheric, hit-to-kill capability will add an upper-tier to Saudi Arabia's layered missile defense architecture and will support modernization of the Royal Saudi Air Defense Force (RSADF).
It continued that the deployment is an example of the USA forces' agility to respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat the world over.
The deployment, which began in March, was meant to test the U.S. military's ability to rapidly deploy such weapons around the world, said a spokeswoman for U.S. European Command. THAAD is a system, built specifically to intercept short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their terminal phase - re-entry or descent - with a direct hit approach.
While the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) insisted that the deployment is exclusively defensive and "is not related to any specific current event", it comes as tensions in the region remains high.
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"THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world, and this deployment readiness exercise demonstrates that U.S. forces are agile and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time", U.S. European Command said in a statement.
The objective of the exercise, according to an English-language statement published by the Israeli military is "to practice rapid deployment across the globe of complex systems, to enhance cooperation with the IAF's air defense systems" as well as to "emphasize the US's commitment to the defense and security of Israel".
The advanced systems were deployed to Israel in early March, US and Israeli military officials revealed on Monday.
The deployment of THAAD in South Korea in 2017 against the North Korean threat caused protests within the country and nearby China to boycott buying Korean products and vacationing at the peninsula's tourist island of Jeju.
THAAD - which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense - is a system manufactured by the Pentagon's top weapons supplier Lockheed Martin, and is often heralded as the most prized part of the US' impressive defense system. "I welcome this joint exercise", Netanyahu said.