Israel and the United States have always had close military cooperation. However, much of it remains under-publicized and secretive. This is bound to change after the U.S. military officials acknowledged that it's establishing the permanent base. This signals an expansion of missile and air defense partnership between the two countries.
U.S. Army’s top command in Europe and the Israeli Air Force held a ceremony on the 18th of September in which they officially broke ground on what they described as a “life support area,” which generally refers to barracks-like facilities where personnel can eat, sleep, and bathe, among other things.
The base is located within the Israel Defense Forces Air Defense School, located at Bislach Air Base near Beersheba in southern Israel’s Negev Desert, but reports indicate that it will be an entirely American-run affair.
The base will house U.S. operational systems to identify and intercept a spectrum of aerial threats, along with barracks, recreational and other facilities required to support several dozen American air defenders.
“A few dozens of soldiers of our American allies will be stationed here permanently. They are part of an American task force that will be stationed here,” said Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the IDF‘s air defense commander.
Haimovich revealed that the co-located, permanent U.S. presence will enhance Israel’s ability to detect and defend against the growing rocket and missile threat. “The purpose of their presence is not for training or for exercises, but rather as part of a joint Israeli and American effort to sustain and enhance our defensive capabilities.”
The deputy commanding general of the Army National Guard in U.S. Army Europe, Maj. Gen. John Gronski, led the U.S. delegation participating in Sept. 18 ceremonies. Referring to the site as Site 883 Life Support Area, Gronski said the planned base “signifies the strong bond” that exists between the United States and Israel.
“This life support area represents the first ever stationing of a U.S. Army unit on Israeli soil,” he said. “The U.S. and Israel have long planned together, exercised together, trained together. And now, with the opening of this site, these crucial interactions will occur every day. We’ll have Israeli airmen, US soldiers living and working side by side.”
The base will be the first of its kind to be co-located within an Israeli base and the first in which active interceptors are to be deployed, the U.S. military has operated an independent facility for nearly a decade in the same general area of Israel’s Negev desert. The facility is operated only by Americans without an Israeli presence. It houses the U.S. AN/TPY-2, an X-Band radar that is integrated with Israeli search and track radars to augment early warning in the event of ballistic missile attack from Iran.
Haimovich briefed reporters and said that the IDF has been working with its U.S. counterparts for nearly two years to establish the new facility. He also pointed out that the American presence “would not hamper the IDF‘s ability to act independently against any threat to the security of the State of Israel.”