Home » Penny Mordaunt: Israel-style ‘iron dome’ defence system needed in UK

Penny Mordaunt: Israel-style ‘iron dome’ defence system needed in UK

Britain should install an Israeli-style “iron dome” missile defence system, Penny Mordaunt has suggested, in an unusual intervention highlighting concerns within the government about the increasingly unstable geopolitical landscape.

Ms Mordaunt, the House of Commons leader and a former Royal Navy reservist, again called for an increase in defence spending, saying the government has a “duty to our citizens” to keep them protected as the world becomes less safe.

The former defence secretary’s comments follow another precarious week in relations between Israel and Iran. On Friday, Israel launched strikes on Iran that hit close to military and nuclear targets deep inside the country, in retaliation for Tehran’s missile and drone attacks days earlier.

With war still raging in Ukraine and no end in sight to the conflict in Gaza, defence figures have been increasing their calls for the UK to bolster its defences, with one senior Conservative MP describing Iran’s strikes as a “wake-up call” for the West.

The UK currently spends just over 2 per cent of GDP on defence, but there are growing calls for this to be increased to at least 2.5 per cent, with some figures pushing for as much as 3 per cent.

Writing for The Sunday Telegraph, in a piece that could be interpreted as a pitch for the future leadership of her party, Ms Mordaunt said the UK must be more ambitious about the amount of resources it puts into defence.

Penny Mordaunt has again called for more money to be spent on defence (PA Wire)

“To those that say, about our defence ambitions, we ‘can’t do’, ‘shouldn’t do’, or ‘can’t afford to do’, I say ‘Look to Israel’ – a nation a fraction of our size that has staved off an attack from a nation 10 times its size,” she told the paper.

“It has made a choice. It has made it work. We may not have its daily reminders of the threats we face, but we have the same duty to our citizens,” she added. “Israel’s defence is our defence, and we must be ready to defend our allies the same way that we would defend ourselves, as we did last weekend.”

Iran fired more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel last Saturday, but nearly all of them were taken out, largely by Israel’s formidable Iron Dome system with support from the country’s allies, including the UK. The combined effort eliminated targets over the skies of Iraq and Syria under Operation Shader.

The Iron Dome system, developed with backing from the US, specialises in shooting down short-range rockets. It has intercepted a vast number of rockets since it was activated early in the last decade – including thousands during the current war against Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel says it has a success rate of over 90 per cent.

A battery of Tamir interceptor missiles, forming part of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, in Ashkelon, southern Israel (AP)

The Iron Dome is supported by the Arrow system, which is designed to intercept long-range missiles including the types of ballistic missiles Iran said it had launched against Israel.

The defence system is extremely expensive to maintain and operate. Reem Aminoach, a former brigadier general and chief financial adviser to the head of the Israeli military, told Bloomberg that it would have cost Israel around $1bn (£808m) to thwart Iran’s attack, with some interceptor missiles costing $3.5m (£2.8m) alone.

Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s chancellor, said he wanted the defence budget to increase to 2.5 per cent after coming under pressure from colleagues to spend more money on protecting the UK against hostile states.

Labour has vowed to match this ambition, and Sir Keir Starmer said in a recent visit to a shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, where the next generation of submarines are being built, that his party’s commitment to the UK’s nuclear weapons system is “unshakeable”.

All Nato members are signed up to an agreement to spend the equivalent of 2 per cent of GDP on defence annually, although many did not match that level last year, according to estimates by the military alliance.

There have been calls for members to go above and beyond the 2 per cent figure in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, was the top Nato spender last year, allocating 3.9 per cent to defence, with the US second at 3.5 per cent.