WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States has deployed a powerful missile defense radar to Israel a year earlier than scheduled to enhance regional defenses against ballistic missiles, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
"The system has arrived in Israel," Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ryder told AFP, who said that about 120 US military personnel also were involved in the deployment.
It comes amid growing US and international concern about Iran's missile and nuclear programs and statements by Iran's leaders threatening Israel with extinction.
"The radar will enhance and extend missile defense capabilities in the region, and function as a deterrent to attack," said Ryder.
The Pentagon had previously scheduled to deploy the radar to Israel in the fall of 2009 for an exercise with the Israelis, but moved it up a year following high level talks in Washington.
The United States deployed a similar radar to Japan in 2006 in response to a North Korean missile test.
Also known as an X-Band radar, the AN/TPY2 radar is designed to track ballistic missile warheads through space and provide ground-based missiles with the targeting data needed to intercept them.
Ryder said it "is one of the most powerful systems available to track medium to long-range missiles."
Data from the system will be provided to Israel's missile defense system, but the radar will remain owned and operated by the United States, Ryder said.
A crew of about 40 is required to operate and maintain the radar.
Ryder would not say where it has been put, but reports have said it was being assembled in the Negev Desert.
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