The U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) has confirmed the deployment of the Patriot air defense systems to bases in Iraq to counter Iranian missile attacks.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the Commander of USCENTCOM, said at a press briefing on March 13, the U.S. is moving defensive systems into Iraq to protect Iraqi, coalition, and U.S. service members from a variety of air threats seen at Iraqi bases that host coalition troops.
“It is important to note that repeated attacks on Iraqi bases, which violate Iraqi sovereignty, have killed and injured Iraqi, coalition, and U.S. service members”, said Captain Bill Urban, USN, U.S. Central Command Spokesman.
“The establishment of ground-based air defenses in Iraq continues, but for operational security reasons, we are not providing status updates as those systems come online. The Iraqi Government is well aware of our collective need for air defense protection of service members within Iraq, and we continue to coordinate closely with our Iraqi counterparts. The U.S. and our Coalition partners remain committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS and supporting Iraq’s long-term security and stability.”
It was earlier announce that the U.S. has deployed Patriot batteries at Ain al-Asad base near the city of al-Ramadi and Harir base in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The system at Ain al-Assad base reportedly made its first interception when it destroyed two rockets fired at the base.
U.S. and Iraq have been negotiating the deployment of the air defense system since January when Iran fired ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad base, which hosts American and other foreign troops. Even though there were no fatalities, around 110 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from the attack.
Patriot, developed by American defense major Raytheon, is one of the most advanced tactical air and missile defense system in the world, providing protection against a full range of advanced threats, including aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Since it was first fielded, Patriot has been used by five nations in more than 250 combat engagements against manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles. Since January of 2015, Patriot has intercepted more than 150 ballistic missiles in combat operations around the world; more than 90 of those intercepts involved the low-cost Raytheon-made Guidance Enhanced Missile family of surface-to-air missiles.