After the IDF killing of "Zohair al-Qaisi, the secretary general of the "Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza on 9 March 2012, more than 300 rockets were fired on Israel. Some 177 fell on Israeli territory. The Iron Dome system had successfully intercepted at least 56 rockets (directed at population centers) in 71 attempts.
July 2012 first Eilat deployment
On 11 July 2012, Ynetnews reported that on that day the Iron Dome system was deployed in the greater "Eilat area as a part of an IDF survey meant to test it in various areas across Israel. The IDF published on its website that the Iron Dome battery will be temporarily stationed there as part of an effort to test and prepare different sites across the country for the possibility of permanently stationing there additional batteries. "Since the system continues to grow and improve, it is important to test potential sites," said a commander from the Air Defense Formation. "After stationing Iron Dome batteries in numerous regions in southern Israel, including Ashkelon, Ashdod, Netivot and "Gush Dan—it is time to test the southernmost region in the country, Eilat." Haaretz reported that an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the interceptors were set up on 9 July. Three weeks beforehand, two Katyhusha rockets were fired into southern Israel, and according to The Jerusalem Post the IDF believes that they originated from the "Sinai. According to the report, IDF assessments are that they were either fired by a Palestinian rocket cell from Gaza—affiliated either with Hamas or Islamic Jihad—or by "Bedouin freelancers who work for them. The launches followed an earlier one in April 2012, when at least one Katyusha rocket was fired from the Sinai to Eilat. Ynetnews reported that according to a military source, following these rocket attacks, the IDF decided not to take any chances and calibrated the system to the region's topography, before finally deploying it. The system's deployment was coordinated with local communities and the City of Eilat, in order to prevent public panic.
November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense
According to the Israeli Air Force, during operation "Pillar of Defense" (14–21 November 2012) Iron Dome made 421 interceptions. On 17 November, after two rockets targeted Tel Aviv during the operation, a battery was deployed in the area. Within hours, a third rocket was intercepted by the system. This fifth battery had not been scheduled to come into service until early 2013.
"CNN relayed an estimate that Iron Dome's success rate in Pillar of Defense was about 85%.
July 2014 Operation Protective Edge
The system was employed during operation "Protective Edge", intercepting rockets launched from Gaza towards southern, central and northern parts of Israel. As of August 2014, ten Iron Dome batteries had been deployed throughout Israel. During the 50 days of the conflict where 4,594 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli targets, Iron Dome systems intercepted 735 projectiles that it determined were threatening, achieving an intercept success rate of 90 percent. Only 70 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza failed to be intercepted. One civilian was killed and three others and nine servicemen were wounded by mortars, but they were not in areas protected by Iron Dome. Only 25 percent of rockets fired were determined to be threatening due to the low accuracy and unstable trajectory of poor-quality designs. Six systems had been deployed prior to hostilities and three more were rushed into service for a total of nine batteries used during the conflict; a tenth was delivered, but not deployed from a shortage of staff.
On 17 December 2016, "Azerbaijan Defense Industry Minister "Yavar Jamalov told reporters that Azerbaijan had reached an agreement with Israel to purchase Iron Dome batteries in the first confirmed foreign sale of the system. The country's acquisition of the system is believed to be related to neighboring Armenia's purchase of Russian "Iskander "short-range ballistic missiles.
Possible foreign sales
- On 10 March 2010, "The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Ministry of Defense was in talks with a number of European countries about the possible sale of the system in order to protect NATO forces deployed in "Afghanistan and "Iraq.
- "South Korea
- During a visit to Israel in the summer of 2011, Kwon Oh-bong, vice commissioner of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration in "Seoul, expressed interest in purchasing the system in order to counter the threat posed by "North Korean "artillery, rockets, and missiles. South Korea was considered unlikely to buy the Iron Dome system due to the number of artillery pieces it would face, the coverage it would need to provide (around Seoul), and the high cost of interceptors; effort is being focused on disrupting the "Kill Chain" to immediately detect and destroy artillery and missile units. In August 2014, South Korea once again emerged as interested in buying the Iron Dome system for protection against rocket attacks.
- "United States
- On 16 August 2011, "Raytheon Company announced that it had teamed with Rafael in order to lead marketing in the United States for the Iron Dome system. "Iron Dome complements other Raytheon weapons that provide intercept capabilities to the "US Army's Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar initiative at forward operating bases," said Mike Booen, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Advanced Security and Directed Energy Systems product line. "Iron Dome can be seamlessly integrated with Raytheon's "C-RAM systems to complete the layered defense."
- On 10 November 2011, The Jerusalem Post reported that the US Army had expressed interest in acquiring the system, to be deployed outside forward bases in Iraq and Afghanistan that could potentially be targeted by "artillery rockets. The US military had discovered 107 mm rockets in Iraq in the past. On 1 December 2011, The Jerusalem Post reported that the US Army would decide in January 2012["needs update] whether it would purchase the system. Yossi Druker, head of Rafael's Air-to-Air Directorate, said that the initial deal is valued at $100 million, but could reach several hundred million dollars over a number of years. In April 2016, Iron Dome's Tamir interceptor successfully shot down a UAV during a test firing in the United States, the system's first trial on foreign soil.
- On 23 November 2012, "The Economic Times reported that Indian Defense planners were considering the possibility of India acquiring an indigenous version of Iron Dome, keeping a close watch on the performance of Iron Dome during the 2012 "Operation Pillar of Defense. Several months earlier, the military scientists in the Defense Research and Development Organisation ("DRDO) had suggested that India look at a joint development program with Israeli firms to develop an Indian version of Iron Dome. They believed Israel's short range missile defense requirements have several parallels to the Indian threat from "Pakistan, which includes a "battlefield range" quasi tactical ballistic nuclear weapon delivery system, called Nasr, which some Indian defense sources say the Iron Dome might be an effective deterrent against, as well as the vulnerability of its cities to attacks from militants. However they have not used any missiles against India.
- "The Israeli team comes and works in our laboratories. Our team goes and works in their laboratories and industries. There is a learning that is taking place which was not there when we buy things and integrate with existing products... we have started discussions about Iron Dome for co-development (in India)," Dr W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller looking after international cooperation said.
- On 8 February 2013, Marshal "Norman Anil Kumar Browne, commander of the Indian Air Force, told reporters that Iron Dome is not suitable for the service. The announcement came after two years of discussions. In August 2013, India resumed attempting to acquire the Iron Dome system after Israel agreed to transfer system technology. Iron Dome could complement the domestic long-range "Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme air defense system.
Following the system's deployment in April 2011, Iron Dome was used to successfully intercept "Katyusha rockets fired by Palestinian militants. In August that year, Iron Dome intercepted 20 missiles and rockets fired into Israel. However, in one instance the system destroyed four out of five rockets fired at the city of "Beersheba but failed to stop the fifth which killed one man and injured several others.
In November 2012, during "Operation Pillar of Defense, the Iron Dome's effectiveness was estimated by Israeli officials at between 75 and 95 percent. According to Israeli officials, of the approximately 1,000 missiles and rockets fired into Israel by Hamas from the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense up to 17 November 2012, Iron Dome identified two thirds as not posing a threat and intercepted 90 percent of the remaining 300. During this period the only Israeli casualties were three individuals killed in missile attacks after a malfunction of the Iron Dome system.
In comparison with other air defense systems, the effectiveness rate of Iron Dome is very high. Defense consultant "Steven Zaloga stated that Iron Dome's destruction of 90 percent of missiles it targeted is "an extremely high level", above that usually expected for air defense systems. Slate reported that the effectiveness rate is "unprecedented" in comparison with earlier systems such as the "Patriot missile defence system.
Defense reporter "Mark Thompson wrote that, the "lack of Israeli casualties suggests Iron Dome is the most-effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen."
During "Operation Protective Edge Iron Dome's interceptors were claimed to have struck down 87%-90% of their targets, totaling 735 successful interceptions.
Prior to deployment
Prior to its deployment, the Iron Dome was criticized as ineffective in countering the Qassam threat for the southern city of Sderot, given the short distance and flight time between the much-attacked city and the rocket launching pads in the "Gaza Strip. Israeli defense officials insisted that with recent improvements to Iron Dome, the system was fully able to intercept Qassams.
Analysis based on video footage
An unpublished 2013 report by "Theodore Postol, Mordechai Shefer and another colleague argued that the official effectiveness figures for Iron Dome during Operation Pillar of Defense were incorrect. Although Postol had earlier lauded Iron Dome's effectiveness, after studying "YouTube videos of the warhead interceptions as well as police reports and other data, he argued that "Iron Dome’s intercept rate, defined as destruction of the rocket's warhead was relatively low, perhaps as low as 5%, but could well be lower." Postol reached this conclusion mainly from an analysis of non-official footage of interceptions taken by civilians and published on YouTube.
The Israeli Institute of National Security Studies published a detailed rebuttal to Postol's claims, labeling it "dubious research without access to credible data". The rebuttal stated:
The report's claims appear puzzling, to say the least, particularly the contention that Iron Dome did not succeed in causing the rocket’s warhead to explode... These clips were not filmed during sophisticated trials; they were taken by civilians who photographed them using their smartphones and uploaded them to YouTube. In general, it is not possible to know where they were filmed or the direction in which the person filming was looking. It is very difficult to conduct precise analyses, and it is generally difficult to learn from the film about the geometry of the missile’s flight. The researchers also looked for double explosions and failed to find them. This is not surprising, since such explosions are very close to each other both in distance and in time – less than a thousandth of a second. There is no way that a smartphone camera could distinguish between a double and a single explosion.
"Uzi Rubin writes: "So how did Postol reach such a radical conclusion? He made a series of assumptions on Iron Dome performance, most of them very wrong, and examined public domain video clips shot from smartphones and media cameras that showed the wind-sheared smoke trails of Iron Dome interceptors, but in which the engaged rockets remained invisible. From this half-blind sky picture, he guessed interception geometries that, when matched with his own gross underestimation of Iron Dome performance, yielded an intuitive estimate of a 5 percent to 10 percent success rate... Postol’s estimates are simply wrong."
In July 2014, the "MIT Technology Review reported that Postol's collaborator Richard Lloyd, a weapons expert formerly with "Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, says that the interceptions certainly do not detonate the rockets’ warheads so the system is essentially failing."
Analysis of damage reports
Postol additionally used the amount of claims filed by the Property Tax Authority and the number of Israeli Police Reports (taken from the Israeli Police website) relating to rockets to support his argument. In relation to Postol's argument based on the number of reports the Israeli Police received, Israeli Institute of National Security Studies wrote: "However, Israel Police reports on calls from citizens, and these include reports on falling fragments, rocket parts, and duds."
Reports of ammunition shortage
According to "Ronen Bergman, in 2012, during "Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel agreed to an early cease-fire, "for a reason that has remained a closely guarded secret: The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system... had run out of ammunition." Bergman says that as a result of the experience, Israel had tried to prepare larger stocks of interceptors for future rounds of fighting.
In 2010, before the system was declared operational, Iron Dome was criticized by Reuven Pedatzur, a military analyst, former fighter pilot and professor of political science at Tel Aviv University for costing too much compared to the cost of a "Qassam rocket (fired by Palestinian forces), so that launching very large numbers of Qassams could essentially attack Israel's financial means. The estimated cost of each Tamir interceptor missile has been cited from US$20,000–50,000 whereas a crudely manufactured Qassam rocket costs around $800 and the cost of each Hamas Grad rocket is only several thousand dollars each. Rafael responded that the cost issue was exaggerated since Iron Dome intercepts only rockets determined to constitute a threat, and that the lives saved and the strategic impact are worth the cost.
Other anti-rocket systems, such as the "Nautilus laser defense system, were argued to be more effective. From 1995 to 2005, the United States and Israel jointly developed Nautilus but scrapped the system after concluding it was not feasible, having spent $600 million. The US Navy continued R&D on the system. American defense company "Northrop Grumman proposed developing a more advanced prototype of Nautilus, "Skyguard. Skyguard would use laser beams to intercept rockets, with each beam discharge costing an estimated $1,000–$2,000. With an investment of $180 million, Northrop Grumman claimed it could possibly deploy the system within 18 months. Israeli defense officials rejected the proposal, citing the extended timeline and additional costs.
In an op-ed in Haaretz, Jamie Levin suggests that the success of the Iron Dome system will likely increase demands to field additional systems across Israel. Budget shortfalls mean that Israel will be forced to weigh spending on missile defenses against other expenditures. Such funds, he argues, will likely come from programs intended to help the most vulnerable sectors of society, such as social welfare.
Effects on Israeli society
Uri Misgav, writing for "Haaretz, claims that the Iron Dome developers have created a technological marvel and saved many lives, but at the strategic level the invention also causes damage by "allowing Israelis to inflate their sense of victimhood". In his view, the Iron Dome allows the various Israeli governments to undertake a "limited (military) operation" and therefore shift discussion away from other topics such as the economic recession and corruption concerns. According to Misgav, the Iron Dome does not only shoot down missiles, it also "shoots down some of the capacity of Israelis for free thought, [because] it reduces their motivation to ask themselves how and why the present 'round of escalation' has started, who escalated it? Who does it serve? And why is it that suddenly rockets are falling from the sky?" Misgav further writes that the Iron Dome will not return peace to the residents of southern Israel nor the residents of the Gaza Strip who he claims live "under siege".
Yoav Fromer, writing in "The Washington Post, thanked Iron Dome for the lack of fatalities and the relatively low casualty rate among Israeli civilians, and said that the technology appears to provide "both a physical and a psychological solace that enables Israelis to go about their business." However, in his view, over time, Iron Dome may do the Israeli public more harm than good because despite the fact it is a "tactical miracle" it may help create a serious strategic problem to Israelis' long-term security because, by temporarily minimizing the dangers posed by rocket attacks, it distracts Israelis from seeking a broader regional political solution that could finally make systems such as Iron Dome unnecessary. In Fromer's view, the Israeli government is "not exactly brimming with creative ideas to reignite the peace process with the Palestinians. And with Iron Dome, why would it? As long as the Israeli public believes it is safe, for now, under the soothing embrace of technology, it will not demand that its political leaders wage diplomacy to end violence that mandated Iron Dome in the first place. Since Iron Dome has transformed a grim reality into a rather bearable ordeal, Israelis have lost the sense of urgency and outrage that might have pushed their government" to make necessary concessions in exchange for peace. In Fromer's view, Israelis risk confusing the short-term military advantage provided by Iron Dome with the long term need for an original and comprehensive diplomatic solution.
"Amir Peretz, an Israeli cabinet minister, told The Washington Post that Iron Dome is no more than a stopgap measure, and that "In the end, the only thing that will bring true quiet is a diplomatic solution."
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As scientists we dream to sit in our offices without limitations of time and budget and to develop perfect products. But the reality is different, and these constraints forced us to think hard. There are parts in the system forty times cheaper than the parts we buy normally. I can give you even a scoop – it contains the world's only missile components from Toys R Us... One day I brought to work my sons toy car. We Passed it among us, and we saw that there were actually components suitable for us. More than that I can not tell..
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