During Operation Protective Edge in mid-2014 the IDF exposed 32 attack tunnels dug by Hamas, half of which penetrated into Israel. These tunnels serve the purpose of terrifying the Israeli population, launching attacks and abducting Israeli civilians, and smuggling illegal goods, weapons, and building materials in and out of Hamas controlled territory. Citing the need for increased Israeli security surrounding these tunnels, the United States Congress initiated a joint research and development program with Israel in April 2015, aimed at evaluating and addressing the threat posed by Hamas tunnels.
According to U.S. officials, the U.S.-Israel Anti-Tunnel Defense Cooperation Act will create a program similar to the one on anti-missile systems. The groundwork for the program was outlined in the “tunnels amendment,” a unanimously approved amendent to the National Defense Authorization Act. The program put in place by this amendment is aimed at protecting Israel against terrorist attacks likely to come from tunnels dug by members of the Hamas terrorist organization.
In 2018, Congress approved spending $47.5 million for U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation, an increase of $5 million over the previous year.
The U.S. Marine Corps trained with Israeli paratroopers in March 2018 on combating the tunnel threat and American forces are expected to benefit from the technology when dealing with tunnels built by adversaries such as ISIS, North Korea, and Syria.
In May 2019, a delegation from the U.S. Army was given a tour by the IDF of a 3,280 foot long attack tunnel constructed by Hezbollah that stretched from Lebanon into Israeli territory. The Americans were interested in the Israeli technology used to discover the tunnels and its possible use for detecting underground passages along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Sources: Dagoni, Ran. “US Congress c'ttee approves Israel tunnel detection aid,” Globes, (April 30, 2015);
“The international impact of Israel’s underground Iron Dome,” Defense News, (June 28, 2018);
Nazir Majali, “US Experts Study 'Hezbollah’s' Underground Tunnels,” Asharq Al-Awsat, (May 31, 2019);