TEL AVIV: Israel has announced that it has joined with several other countries in the Middle East to form a new US-led joint air defense network, known as the Middle East Air Defense Alliance (MEAD).
The announcement, made by Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz in a Monday speech, means that Israel will tie its air defense capabilities in with regional players who for years have served the role of antagonists. However, Israel officially declined to comment on what nations may be involved, and details about the new setup are scant at best. A request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned.
According to Gantz, the MEAD will help the countries in the region to better protect themselves from Iran’s attempts to attack the region’s countries using rockets, cruise missiles and UAVs.
“This program is already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries,” Gantz said.
An Israeli defense source told Breaking Defense that MEAD is based on the already-operational coalition against Iranian armed UAV’s. That coalition appears to have played a role in last year’s shootdown of Iranian UAVs by a pair of Israeli F-35s, which according to defense sources used real-time intelligence and data collected outside of Israel.
“Now it is clear that more than one country participated in the interception of the two Iranian UAV’s,” the defense source said.
Among nations to keep an eye on as potentially participating in the MEAD would be Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Notably, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have had preliminary discussions about purchasing Israeli-made air defense systems, as Breaking Defense has previously reported.
Gantz speech at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee focused, unsurprisingly, on Iran, ahead of US President Joe Biden’s upcoming travels to the region.
“This alliance has already thwarted Iranian attempts to threaten Israel and other countries in the region. President Biden’s visit [to the region] will support this process. In face of Iran’s threat to carry out an attack [on Israeli citizens in Turkey], I have directed the defense establishment to prepare a powerful response. We have a variety of options at our disposal, and we will respond to any harm directed at the citizens of Israeli, at the time and place of our choosing.”
He added that in recent months, Israel has witnessed two significant achievements bringing the international community together to face the Iranian threat: “The first achievement is in keeping the IRGC on the ‘FTO’ list of terror organizations. The second is the IAEA’s condemnation of Iran regarding its noncompliance with investigations and inspections.”