Israel's Iron Dome Explained
Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Image credits: Shutterstock
BACKGROUND OF THE IRON DOME
Iron Dome is Israel’s Air Defence Missile System. It is an effective, truck-towed, multi-mission mobile air defence system developed by the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems. As this system is mobile, it can be easily and with speed deployed anywhere. It was ordered by the Israeli Defence Ministry in 2007 and was first tested in 2008. With its final testing in 2010, it was successfully deployed in March 2011. This system has a range between 5km to 70km. The development cost for the program was $200 million.
This system has been developed to counter very short-range rockets and 155mm artillery shell threats with a maximum range of 70kms. This system is suitable for all-weather conditions, be it fog, low clouds and rain, which gives Iron Dome operational advantage and effectiveness. The primary aim of this system is to act as a protecting shield for the local population and critical assets (infrastructure). As it is mobile, it can be placed strategically to reduce collateral damage. With more than 90% effectiveness, nations like India, Azerbaijan, and the USA have shown keen interest in the Iron Dome System. India has signed deals for the purchase of the missile defence system.
Iron Dome detects, traces, analyses and intercepts incoming threats, including C-RAM, precise guided missiles, cruise missiles and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles like drones). Iron Dome has so far intercepted more than 2000 incoming targets and has a success rate of over 90%, which puts it as an industry leader. It is specially deployed near the northern and southern border areas to protect the Israeli population from air threats.
In July 2010, the US approved $205 million funding for speeding up the production of Iron Dome. Iron Dome is the mobile version of naval C-Dome. In 2012, Israel deployed the fifth Iron Dome battery at Gush Dan in response to rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area. 2006’s Second Lebanon War led to the development of the Iron Dome System when Hezbollah fired more than 4000 rockets on Haifa and other northern regions, which were short-ranged Katyusha type. As civilian casualties increased, Israel decided to develop a mobile air defence system to counter the rocket threats.
TESTING OF THE IRON DOME
Iron Dome doesn’t attack, it defends from incoming threats like rockets and aerial attack objects. The system was being tested in 2009 and 2010, it successfully intercepted the rockets and neutralised them. Testing was carried out without physical interception of a rocket or missile. This shows that the system was capable of greater autonomy and precise target selection. In 2010, another test mimicking Qassams and Katyushas were intercepted successfully. Iron Dome successfully determined and intercepted only incoming missile threats in its final test, but other missiles in the open field were not intercepted. All in all, the Iron Dome proved its Iron capabilities.
Image credits: Mirror UK.
FEATURES AND HOW THE IRON DOME WORKS
The Iron Dome comprises three key elements, detection and tracking radar for interception and identification, a battle management and weapon control system (BMC) for operations and a missile-firing unit (MFU). The radar system used by Iron Dome was developed by Elta - an Israeli defence company. Israeli software company mPrest developed the control system. The missile launcher includes Tamir interceptor missiles.
Iron Dome has several steering fins for high manoeuvrability and is equipped with electro-optic sensors. It can operate day and night. It has a quick reaction time and can handle multiple targets at the same time. It has Salvo interception capability, which means that it can simultaneously discharge many missiles for defence. The system’s warhead allows it to detonate any target in the air. Other features are its vertical launch interceptor, warhead, compatibility with various radars and mobile launcher system.
After detecting and identifying the rocket or any incoming missile, the Iron Dome radar monitors its path. Based on the information collected, the system’s BMC analyses the direction of the incoming threat and calculates where the would be the point of impact. If the calculated path of the incoming rocket or missile poses a real threat, a command is run to launch an interceptor against the threat. The incoming rocket or missile is then detonated over a neutral area. This safeguards the civilian and their assets. It is a cost-effective interceptor.
POINT BY POINT EXPLAINER
Each launcher has 20 missiles with a maximum range of 70kms
Radar instantly detects when a rocket or missile has been fired
Algorithms then determine what type of projectile it is and whether it is heading to a populated or strategic area.
If yes, the Iron Dome launches its own missile to destroy the incoming rocket or missile.
The network of launchers is mobile and fast.
Till now, Iron Dome has protected many civilians and assets from rocket attacks. Some figures show that more than 2000 rockets have been neutralised by it so far. While the Iron Dome System may be a protector for the Israelis, the Palestinians view it as an extensive arm of the Israeli security apparatus. Israel upholds the use of the Iron Dome in the spirit of self-defence.
Video credits: Bloomberg
BY HARSH SURI
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA