The Answers Issue: Does D.C. have an Iron Dome?

During the recent conflicts in the Gaza Strip, there was a lot of talk about the Iron Dome. Does D.C. have anything similar?

Getting a straight answer on this question wasn’t easy. The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency didn’t return a call or an email about it. When we emailed the Military District of Washington, an armed forces command whose organizational chart includes “Ground Based Air Defense,” we got back a message marked “UNCLASSIFIED” saying they were working on our request for information, but never heard anything more.

But we’re reasonably confident that the answer is: No, D.C. doesn’t have anything like Israel’s Iron Dome.

About 10 years ago, the Pentagon ran what it called an “exercise,” code-named “Clear Skies 2,” around the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It involved temporary deployment of radar, Stinger missiles, and Avenger air-defense systems (basically, missiles mounted on Humvees) around D.C.

But by June 9, 2004, that stuff was apparently no longer in place. While the body of former President Ronald Reagan was lying in state in the Capitol that day, law enforcement evacuated the building, sending staffers, reporters, and tourists running for blocks after a plane—later identified as carrying the governor of Kentucky—flew into restricted airspace and ignored repeated attempts at communication due to a broken radio. Bodyguards whisked top lawmakers into SUVs and police screamed, “Run for your lives!” at others. Fighter jets were scrambled to chase the plane, and reportedly nearly shot it down—but evidently, taking it out with hidden missiles wasn’t an option.

The best circumstantial evidence against an Iron Dome system in D.C., though, is that members of Congress have been repeatedly pestering the Pentagon to install one. As recently as last week, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky made headlines for saying how impressed he was with Israel’s setup and how much he wanted one here. Last August, a House subcommittee promised to give the military an extra $100 million if they got working on a plan to install a missile-defense system on the East Coast (it may be a sign that the Pentagon budget is too bloated that the request doesn’t seem to have prompted any action). Israel also recently said it would hand over the plans for its system to the U.S., strongly suggesting that we don’t have anything like it in place.

Of course, the main difference between Israeli cities and the District (or most other U.S. cities) is that there’s no one close by to D.C. who has rockets like the ones Palestinian militants fire into Israel—or any reason to launch them at us. (Though Clarendon does seem like an aggressive place at times.) The main reason we probably don’t have a missile-defense system is that we don’t need one.

That’s not to say, though, that there are no cool gadgets and gizmos keeping you safe. Earlier this month, the National Nuclear Security Administration sent a helicopter flying low over several D.C. neighborhoods to measure the city’s normal output of gamma rays—the better to detect suspicious spikes in radiation that might indicate an attack of some sort. And who knows what else is out there that no one will tell us about?

Our Readers Say

We did have the Nike system; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington-Baltimore_Defense_Area#Maryland.2FDistrict_of_Columbia
"The main reason we probably don’t have a missile-defense system is that we don’t need one."

Excellent point, and if the Israelis would end the occupation of Palestine, a missile defense system would not be needed there either.

Sure Rik. And if the Palestinians weren't terrorists who use human bombs, they wouldn't be despised by everyone, including their fellow Arab "brothers".
"Sure Rik. And if the Palestinians weren't terrorists who use human bombs, they wouldn't be despised by everyone, including their fellow Arab "brothers"

I wanted to repeat the above for emphasis.


"Excellent point, and if the Israelis would end the occupation of Palestine, a missile defense system would not be needed there either."
Yes, of course because muslim controlled nations have shown such a strong penchant for peace and equality. Actually, scratch that, there isn't a single country controlled by Islam that has anything even remotely approaching what we'd consider freedom in the West. The two closest are probably Morocco and Indonesia, and even they have ridiculous restrictions on what non-muslims are allowed to do.
This is how gays are treated by "Palestinians:" http://www.law.tau.ac.il/Heb/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFiles/Nowhere.pdf


If there isn't an air defense system around Washington, DC, then what are these things, clearly visible using Google Maps?

http://goo.gl/maps/FWNB7

http://goo.gl/maps/NXHJt

http://goo.gl/maps/7kWXy

Problem is, the writer is confusing a conventional air defense system that would target incoming aircraft, with a system that would take out incoming missiles. The former is common, the latter, not so much. Anyone receiving such a confused query would take the opportunity to just say "no, we have no idea what you're talking about."
Iron Dome is meant to stop small short range missiles from landing in the protected area,
while it no doubt has an anti aircraft mode, it's primary job is to whack katyusha style rockets launched by palestinian insurgents out of the westbank and gaza.

Now a more conventional anti aircraft missile system like patriot could be deployed
and as the prior poster shows, there is some system with locations at andrews, belvoir and the naval center.

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