Wednesday, June 7th | 18 Sivan 5783

November 20, 2012 3:35 pm

The Iron Dome is a Superb System that Saves Lives

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avatar by Gabriel Eichler


Israel's 5th Iron Dome battery. Photo: MOD.

Imagine trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The age old impression takes on a whole new meaning when one looks at the near-spectacular success rate of Israel’s miraculous Iron Dome system in the face of the now constant barrage of terrorist missiles it faces.

One Israeli commentator writes:  “There is one man who is sitting in a heavily fortified bunker, and he is fit to be tied. Every successful interception by the Iron Dome system taxes his health a bit more. No, he is’nt holed up in Gaza, cowering under the IAF'”Žs air strikes; he is sitting in the relatively quiet city of Beirut. The man'”Žs name is Hassan Nasrallah, and he is gazing on in despair as the Iron Dome system pulls the rug out from under the strategic threat that he has been making against Israel for years already.”

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The current armed conflict is the third missile war that Israel has experienced in the past 21 years.

During the first Gulf War they coped with almost no protective means from Iraqi Scud missiles, but experienced almost no casualties. That sowed the first seed that ultimately grew into the Arrow missile system.

During the Second Lebanon War in 2006 Nasrallah’s ragtag band of fundamentalist murderers fired a shower of Russian, North Korean and Chinese missiles at Israel. They caused considerable damage, but they hardly got the country to drop to its knees. And today—”Ža mere 30 rockets out of nearly 1,000 that were fired—”Žhit populated areas.

The Iron Dome system brilliantly intercepted most of the rockets that were fired at the southern towns. Since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, nearly a thousand rockets were fired at Israel; 29 exploded in open areas.

At the time of this writing the Iron Dome system in a 24 hour time frame intercepted over 30 rockets, one of which was a Fajr 5 rocket fired at Tel Aviv.

The Fajr 5 rocket launched at greater Tel Aviv was intercepted by what can only be called the newest technological miracle: the fifth Iron Dome battery that was hurriedly assembled and placed in greater Tel Aviv.

The gamble of its early deployment under battle conditions has been has proven to be a spectacular success. The Rafal technological team and the IAF unit operating the battery continued the testing in real-time, and it was stunningly successful. It is fair to say, that this does not often happen in any other armed forces anywhere in the world.

The fifth Iron Dome battery hurriedly deployed in the Tel-Aviv area has significantly different capabilities from the four batteries that preceded it. Less than two hours after that fifth battery was rendered operational in the greater Tel Aviv area, it intercepted its first rocket that was fired at Tel Aviv. Judging by its trajectory, the rocket that was fired was going to explode in a densely-populated area.

That specific interception is even more amazing when one takes into account that the battery, which was only now made operational, was significantly upgraded in terms of the range of rockets it deals with to make up for the absence of the Magic Wand system, which is still being developed—”Žand it successfully intercepted a rocket that was beyond its operationally-defined limits.

This is an excellent operational achievement for a system that has already proven itself above and beyond all expectations: Out of the 110 rockets that were fired in a 24 hour period, only three rockets managed to get through and to hit built-up areas.

This battery was the direct result of a special gift made earlier from former American secretary of defense Robert Gates to Defense Minister Ehud Barak. That gift was worth about $205 million. The follow-up funds that Barak managed to raise from the subsequent defense secretary, Leon Panetta, are now being used to build the sixth battery, that will be put into service in a few months, as well as the seventh, eighth and ninth Iron Domes- all of the most advanced model.

At the time of this writing, despite all the ceasefire chatter, indications are that the fighting will continue. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are preparing for a long battle, and this is one of the reasons they fired fewer rockets in recent hours.They are using their remaining rocket fire sparingly—”Žmostly 40 km range Grad rocket—”Žto leave themselves “”Žrations” “Žfor a long time. Most of the rockets fired at Israel in recent hours were launched from populated areas in Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp. The long-range rockets—70 “Žkm and up—”Žwere also fired from there.

A barrage of “Žrockets, manufactured in Gaza’s now mostly destroyed factories- primarily for Islamic Jihad, were fired at Tel Aviv, as was one Fajr 5 rocket, which was fired by Hamas. Another locally made rocket traversed a surprising 80 km, a new record for a rocket from Gaza, to land near Gush Etzion. All of these rockets landed in open spaces. The reason: the launchers were positioned between houses and hastily launched, which made precision difficult.

The numbers are very clear: each Iron Dome battery costs the IDF $100 million. Do the math: a single missile in the Iron Dome system costs $ 50,000, while each casualty costs the economy of the State of Israel $ 1.2 million.

The rate of successful interceptions in the current round of fighting is 90%  While the outstanding engineers at Rafal are still pushing the limits to achieve an over 95 per cent success rate, as far as this writer is concerned, the Iron Dome system was worth every penny!

The director of Israel Missile Defense Organization at the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for the Iron Dome systems, confirms that the sixth system is already under construction and will be delivered over to the IAF soon. Batteries five and six have a new, powerful radar system that is significantly more advanced than the radar systems in the earlier batteries.

The new radar system proved itself within minutes of being deployed for the first time on site. Up until its operational deployment it was tested with great success in trials, the last of which was conducted just a short two weeks ago and included intercepting various types of long- and short-range targets. There are now two long-range threats from Gaza: Fajr 5 with a 75-km range and a 333 mm diameter, and an independent rocket that one of the organizations in Gaza developed, like the one fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Since most of the rocket fire is originating from densely populated areas, the IDF General Staff has decided to move on to the third stage of aerial warfare and begin targeting launching sites and warehouses located in the cities. This is a major decision -and not just a matter of striking empty public buildings and government symbols at night, but rather if necessary- dropping heavy bombs near high-rises, schools and mosques.

There is considerable concern that the surgical success that so far has given Israel international endorsement to continue the operation will evaporate if just a single bomb causes unintended collateral damage. If the residents of Gaza on orders of the terrorist leaders don'”Žt evacuate the buildings that are located next to launching trenches or rocket warehouses in a timely manner, there may very well be a lot of civilian casualties. At the time of this writing the IDF has already begun a procedure called “”Žknocking on the roof”—”Žfiring a weakened missiles at the roof of such buildings to encourage the residents to move to safer places.

Until an acceptable diplomatic and political solution is found, Israel’s population can sleep better knowing that in a great measure – thanks to the people of the United States and to the pure ingenuity and tireless efforts of the thousands of the nameless high-tech heroes of Israel’s armament industry and the IAF crews deploying the new Iron Dome system – the main population centers of the country will be safe from terrorist missiles.

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