Israel's Air Defense System - Iron Dome. Copyright Israel Defense Forces

Technology

Israel's Iron Dome - Is It The Best Anti-Missile System In The World?

How impenetrable is the shield?

Israel's Air Defense System - Iron Dome. Copyright Israel Defense Forces

What Is Isreal's Iron Dome? 

Iron Dome is an aerial defence system that intercepts rockets that enter Israeli airspace. 

The system has been developed by the country's Rafael Advanced Defence Systems with backing from the US. It is designed to counter short-range rockets and artillery shells, with limits of up to 70km like those commonly fired from Gaza. 

Rockets heading towards populated areas are intercepted and knocked out mid-air before they have the chance to land and cause damage. 

Israel has 10 batteries deployed across the country. They are truck-towed and work in all weather conditions. Each has three to four launchers that can fire 20 interceptor missiles.

How Effective Is The Iron Dome? 

First deployed in March 2011, after 14 years of development, it has since changed the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Dome can intercept 90% of the short-range rockets fired by militant groups out of Gaza, while the Palestinian's don't have any means of ariel defence from their neighbour.  

The Iron Dome is one of the most advanced rocket defence systems in the world. However, it has significant limitations. In the most recent conflict, Sderot and Ashkelon were two of the Israeli towns hardest hit by rockets from Gaza due to their close proximity to the Strip. The mayors of the two towns criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for ending the conflict too soon, saying that he should have eliminated Hamas. 

Iron Dome can intercept nine out of ten rockets.

However, there is a possibility that if the quality and numbers of rockets are significantly increased in the future, the Dome may not be able to cope. 

 

Is Israel's Iron Dome One Of The Best Anti-missile Systems In The World?   

The Iron Dome is a state-of-the-art technological marvel that has been credited with defending Israeli lives for the past decade.

It is very effective at what it is designed to do, which is intercepting short-range rockets. For that unique purpose, it is considered among the best technology currently in use anywhere in the world. 

It is important to note that the Iron Dome can only intercept unsophisticated rockets fired from a relatively close distance. It is very good at what it does, but it is limited in what it can do. 

The Qassam rockets engineered and used by Hamas are simple steel artillery rockets that are fired discriminatorily, meaning that they cannot be fired at specific locations. Therefore, they target civilians and military objectives alike. This, combined with the fact that they are cheap to produce, makes them both dangerous and easy to intercept. The danger comes from the sheer numbers that Hamas can create. However, the rockets are simple and are easy to intercept. 

Of course, one cannot put a price on the cost of saving human lives. However, the Iron Dome is a costly, highly sophisticated technology that effectively protects against cheap simple short-range threats. It would not protect against anything slightly more technologically advanced than a £200-£600 Qassam rocket. 

The Iron Dome is not designed to intercept ballistic missiles or precision-guided weapons, leaving Isreal susceptible to more sophisticated attacks, perhaps from Iran. 

How Does It Work? 

The Iron Dome is a missile interceptor system that can be broken down into three components: 

1) A radar that detects an incoming short-range rocket.

2) "Command-and-control" system operated by soldiers on the ground, where the risk is analysed, and then a decision is made whether to activate the third stage.

3) The interceptor - the final stage of the operation is firing a missile that intercepts the enemy's rocket and destroys it in the sky without any harm done to the civilians below. 

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel 180521 CREDIT REUTERS, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Iron Dome at night PA

Was Iron Dome Co-developed With The US?   

Israel started developing a missile defence system following the war with Lebanon in 2006.  

The Dome was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries with US financial support. 

The US and Israel have been working together on Air Defence since the 1980s, so it was natural for them to work closely to deter Israel's most significant threat to civilian lives. 

A Senate report from the US Government Publishing Office calculated that since 2011, US funding for the Dome has been over $1 billion. 

President Joe Biden had congratulated Prime Minister Netanjahu on bringing the hostilities to a close within less than 11 days. He also praised the Iron Dome for preventing the loss of civilian lives and destruction of cities, vowing to keep supporting the aerial defence system that the US helped develop. The President gave his "full support to replenish Israel's Iron Dome system to ensure its defences and security in the future".

In August 2019, the US Army acquired two Iron Dome systems from Israel. The second battery was delivered to the US in January of this year. 

How Much Does It Cost For The Iron Dome To Counter The Palestinian Rockets? 

It has been estimated that each intercepting missile costs between £72,000 and £108,000 each. 

According to the Israeli Military, 4,340 rockets have been fired towards Israel since May 10th, 2021. Granted that only missiles that are heading towards populated areas are destroyed, it is still costly.

Conversely, according to missile expert Uzi Rubin, the rockets fired by Hamas are cheap to manufacture, costing around £200 to £600.