Iron Dome Receives Mixed Reactions
Despite US support many feel anti-missile system still has a few kinks.
The Iron Dome, developed by the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., is an anti-missile system in Israel, which is reportedly capable of intercepting all short-range rockets fired by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Using an advanced radar, the Iron Dome is built to locate and track rockets, which are then intercepted by a kinetic missile interceptor. The system is set to be deployed in November.
Recent tests runs have shown the Iron Dome to be a success. “Faced with a volley of Grad-type Katyushas, [Iron Dome] fires a counter-volley and the interceptors are required to select and intercept specific Grads in this flying pack,” said an observer of Monday’s test trial. “It looked impossible, but they did the impossible. Every missile picked the specific Grad it was asked to select and destroyed it. There’s no doubt this is historic.”
The Iron Dome has also been backed by President Barack Obama, who pledged to cover approximately half the cost of the project with $205 million in funding. Last week, the U.S. Congress passed this initiative, which will help Israel’s Defense Ministry to obtain eight or nine batteries for the Iron Dome.
“As surely as the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, our commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge has never been greater,” said Andrew Shapiro, an assistant Secretary of State for political and military affairs. The Israeli Defense Ministry estimates that the U.S. funding will cover about half of what is necessary to protect the Negev and the Galilee from short- and intermediate-range rockets. Each intercept missile could cost up to $40,000.
Military analyst, Reuven Pedatzur has referred to the project as “a scam,” when expressing his thoughts about its controversial high cost. “All they’ll need to do is shoot as many rockets as they possibly can until we go broke,” he speculates. “Hezbollah alone is believed to have over 150,000 long-range rockets. We can’t afford this.”
Pedatzur further explained his concern over the system’s lack of a defence against these long-range rockets. “The system can’t defend against anything with a range of less than four and a half kilometres, and also possibly projectiles with a range of up to 10 km,” he said. “It can’t protect Sderot or the western Negev because there isn’t enough time, enough range. The flight time of a Kassam is 14 seconds, and it takes Iron Dome 15 seconds to identify a threat and fire a missile.”
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i concurred with Pedatzur, telling Israel Radio “it is more likely that it will intercept about 80 per cent (of rockets fired into Israel)”. He also noted that IDF will probably not deploy the system along the southern border of the country immediately, but would do so based on operational requirements.
The IDF is still seeking alternative funding for the project, insisting that it should not have to pay for the procurement of Iron Dome batteries. If the system can achieve success, it could draw both the attention and money of other countries, as a source of funding for the batteries. Already, a French magazine has reported that Singapore has agreed to fund the project.