Iron Dome in action

Israel is facing barrages of rockets from Hamas. This is hardly a new phenomenon. But the recent upswing in violence after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens (one of whom was an American citizen) has led to large barrages of crude rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into virtually every city in southern Israel.

In spite of the man critics who insist that no form of missile defense is possible, the Israelis in 2011 fielded the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Iron Dome is a “point defense” system, designed to shoot down battlefield type artillery rockets in defense of a single “point” rather than a wide area. Mind you, “point” in military terms means, say, a single city, as opposed to a wider region. Iron Dome racked up impressive success last year. And so far, under this current bombardment, it is having about 90% success rate.

 

You’ll notice the first two segments show fairly large barrages, and Iron Dome is engaging them at very short range, with multiple missiles guiding simultaneously. That’s a pretty impressive capability.  The battery has to acquire the rocket, discriminate that it really is a rocket, plot its trajectory, and make a decision whether to engage or not (no sense shooting if the rocket will simply land in the desert). And it has to do this automatically, in seconds, day or night, good weather or bad, and do it for multiple targets simultaneously.  And the warhead has to be effective at not just striking the rocket body, but must reliably detonate the incoming warhead.

Iron Dome was developed by Israel, but the US has funded procurement of additional firing batteries and interceptor missiles.

By the way, the plotting of the ballistic path of the incoming rockets to determine the likely point of impact also works the other way, plotting the launching point. The Israelis are pretty good at pouncing on the Hamas teams launching rockets.

Iron Dome is also capable of intercepting low to medium altitude aircraft, but it is not suitable for intercepting missiles such as the SCUD or other medium range ballistic missiles. Still, it’s an impressive capability, and to date, only three Israelis have been killed by rocket fire while under the protection of an Iron Dome battery.

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