The Iron Dome network is designed to track and shoot down missiles fired at Israeli cities. It was fielded in April 2011. The system's intercepting missile is dubbed Tamir. The Israelis developed Iron Dome, and the United States committed more than $205 million to fielding the system. In March 2012, the U.S. Defense Department said the system was responsible for taking down 80 percent of several hundred rockets that militants in the Gaza Strip directed at Israel. The defense system was meant to block 95 percent of Qassam rockets and mortar shells fired at Sderot and Ashkelon.
In July 2014, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. delivered the seventh Iron Dome batter to the IDF. On 01 August 2014 the US Congress approved $225 million in emergency funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, sending the measure to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The House vote was 395 to 8.
Israel said it would need as many as 15 batteries to fully protect its citizens from attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Each battery is a cluster of three transportable components: a computerized radar detection and tracking unit; a management and control unit; and a box launcher, outfitted with about 60 missiles called interceptors. The batteries are connected to MRR radar systems developed and manufactured by Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI). The Tamir interceptor is made by Rafael. These can be moved and positioned wherever they are needed. Each battery costs about $50 million and each interceptor costs as much as $100,000 [some sources estimate the cost at "only" $50,000].
The detection and tracking unit radar scans a defined sector in the sky for incoming short- to medium-range rockets, coming from up to about 60 kilometers away. A separate control unit computers quickly calculate whether that rocket will be landing in a populated area and could threaten life. It launches the intercept at anything it determines is a threat.
The system was initially designed to counter Grad and Kassam rockets with ranges of up to 40 km. A series of upgrades, software and hardware revisions by Rafael and Elta engineers, made it possible to double the system's effective interception range, enabling it to also intercept the M-75 and M-302 rockets.
Iron Dome was developed after Israel’s second war with Lebanon in 2006, when about 4,000-4,500 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon. Approximately 12,000 Israeli buildings were damaged and $2 billion worth of damage done to the Lebanese infrastructure. UN officials estimated that 43 Israeli civilians were killed and 75 seriously injured.
The Israeli MOD was trying to define a solution to the Katyusha and Kassam threat as a result of the war with Hizballah in southern Lebanon. The Nautilus laser -- which was a stationary variant -- was later referred to as the Skyguard project. Nautilus had been canceled in 2005 by the U.S. Army due to its preference for a solid-state laser. the mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL) twas claimed to be able to address the threat posed by Katyusha and Kassam rockets. In August 2007 the US Army decided to resume the Nautilus laser project and it signed contracts with Boeing and Northrop-Grumman. The Nautilus was supposed to offer protection against Qassam rockets. But it did not work well on dusty days, and was never fielded.
In February 2007 Minister Amir Peretz announced his choice of a short-range rocket defense system developed by Rafael -- Israel's Armament Development Authority -- as the system the defense establishment will develop to defend Israel against Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The system developed by Rafael and dubbed "Iron Dome" was planned to be capable of intercepting Qassam and Katyusha rockets with a small kinetic missile interceptor and is scheduled to be operational for deployment outside the Gaza Strip and along the northern border within two years, that is, by early 2009. But by late 2007 some Israeli defense industry officials were concerned that the lack of consistent funding may leave the home front open to rocket and missile threats from neighboring countries. In particular, the officials were quoted as saying that they were concerned about the absence of regular government funding for the Iron Dome missile interception project.
By 2008 Israel was again examining a possible purchase of an overseas anti-rocket weapons system to combat the Qassam rockets, because the Israeli-made Iron Dome system, under development at Rafael, the Armaments Development Authority, would not be operational before 2010. The Jerusalem Post quoted defense officials as saying on 26 May 2008 that Rafael Advanced Defense Systems had received special rabbinic permission to work on Shabbat.
Israel Air Force (IAF) was seeking further information on the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) system, with the stated intent of looking to purchase a few of the LCMR radars, primarily to help with mortar detection and warning. They are not interested in the land-based Phalanx gun, mostly because of the difficulties inherent in deciding where to locate the guns and the psychological effect of having the sound of a gun firing off in populated areas, for example next to a school. But the C-RAM gun does not sound like a standard machine gun, but the sound is more of a buzzing sound.
On 06 August 2008 the IAF unveiled prototypes of the missile that will form the basis of two planned rocket interception systems -- Iron Dome and David's Sling.
Israel moved to develop the Iron Dome air defense system following years of fighting against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. The militants had fired thousands of short-range rockets at Israel until Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009 put an end to massive Palestinian attacks. The war claimed the lives of some 1,500 Palestinians. During a month-long war with Lebanon in the summer of 2006, militants of the Shiite armed group Hezbollah have fired some 4,000 short-range rockets at northern Israel.
On 02 March 2009 a report issued by the State Comptroller on efforts to develop a missile defense system against Qassam rockets, which the south has been desperately awaiting for eight years now, revealed a worrying picture of bureaucratic confusion, wasted money and broken rules. The bottom line: The Iron Dome system was still far from completion, and Israel still had no effective defense against short-range rockets.
By March 2009 the Israel Air Force was establishing a new anti-aircraft battalion whose task will be to learn the Iron Dome system for intercepting Qassam and Grad rockets fired from Gaza at Sderot and at the Gaza periphery communities in the western Negev. The first complete short-range missile interception "Iron Dome" system was expected to become operational as early as summer 2010. At that time the Air Force believed that within four months the anti-aircraft battalion will install the system and begin training, and in tandem, will develop a new fighting doctrine versus the launching tactics of the Palestinian terror organizations. The system should be able to handle the short-range rocket threats quite well and would also be able to deal with shells with a 155 millimeter caliber. The future task of the new battalion would be to receive the Magic Wand system now being developed that is earmarked to provide a response to medium-range rockets. Israeli security officials believed that these two systems will significantly change how Israel deals with terrorist organizations and will even prompt them to find new threats with which to attack IDF soldiers and residents of southern Israel.
The Iron Dome interceptor system developed to shoot down the short-range rockets favored by Palestinian and Lebanese guerrillas, passed its first live trial 15 July 2009. The system's success could improve the prospects of Israel eventually ceding West Bank land to the Palestinians, as Israeli officials have said that any withdrawals should be conditional on the deployment of a reliable defense against rocket attacks. But a group of experts who support the Northrop Grumman-developed Skyguard [formerly Nautilu] laser missile defense system claim that because of its slow response time, the Israeli-built Iron Dome system will not be able to protect Sderot and the Upper Galilee town of Kiryat Shmona from Qassam and Katyusha rockets.
The Israeli Defense Ministry reported in July 2010 that tests of the Iron Dome air defense system had been completed and that interceptor missiles will soon be deployed. The final tests of the Israeli air defense system designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells were successfully carried out on 20 July 2010, the ministry said in a statement. First Iron Dome interceptor missiles were expected to be deployed by November 2010. The cost of a single Iron Dome missile launch is estimated at tens of thousands of dollars, while a single launch of a Qassam rocket is ten times cheaper. President Obama secured an additional $205 million in FY 2011 to help produce the Israeli-developed Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, which helped defend Israeli communities against rocket attacks by successfully striking rockets as they are fired at Israeli civilians.
Ha'aretz editorialized 05 February 2010 "Barack Obama and other dignified guests have been taken to Sderot to witness the town's suffering under Qassam barrages. But the townspeople's expectations that they would be the first to be protected by Iron Dome have been shattered. Now our defense chiefs are telling them that a situational evaluation will be necessary to figure out where to put the system. The mutual backslapping over the system's success and the fight over who deserves the credit have given way to mutual accusations and complaints.... The cost of producing launchers and missiles against cheap rockets is extremely high. We need money for building attack forces, protecting civilians and other defense measures, not just Iron Dome. The dilemma is more real than its packaging. Israelis deserve not merely defense, but a leadership that speaks to them seriously, without spreading illusions."
Iron Dome was initially deployed operationally on the border with the Gaza Strip, where it was used against Palestinian Kassam and Grad rockets. The Israeli military estimated the system has intercepted hundreds of incoming rockets fired at residential areas. As of mid-2012 the army had four batteries but hoped to deploy another two in the near future.
In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed a law providing another $70 million to field more batteries in fiscal year 2012. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited August 1, 2012 with Israeli air force personnel protecting Ashkelon from terrorist attacks. The city is less than 10 miles away from Gaza, and terrorists there have launched hundreds of missiles and mortar rounds into Israel. During a joint news conference with Barak at the battery, Panetta said Iron Dome “has been a game changer for Israel’s security. It has saved Israeli lives.” Barak said it had a more than 80 percent success rate.
Israel had additional requirements for the Iron Dome shortrange rocket and mortar defense system that will be executed over 4 years with a total cost of $680,000,000. The Department submitted a reprogramming for $70,000,000 to fund the fiscal year 2012 requirement. Another $211,000,000 can be executed in fiscal year 2013.
In Augsut 2012 the Israel Defense Force deployed Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system to the area of the port city of Eilat, which had come under rocket fire in recent days from inside Egypt. The basing of the Iron Dome installations is for technical reasons and not due to changing operational circumstances in the Eilat area, which is popular with tourists. Iron Dome was being tested all across Israel and it was in this context that it was being based in Eilat. Local press reports say the Iron Dome batteries were being matched to the topography of the local terrain. The was the second Iron Dome deployment in Eilat. The first was in July.
The Ministry of Defense officially announced 04 November 2012 that a series of tests to the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has been successfully completed, an important step in the IDF's plans to upgrade the system. Following the tests, IDF forces will acquire an additional Iron Dome battery, this one with improved capabilities. The new battery, which will be the IDF's fifth, will soon be transferred to the IAF. The series of tests was designed to broaden the activities of the Iron Dome system and to improve its capabilities against an unprecedented variety of threats. The advancement of the system will enable it to handle the threats posed by the Fajr and Zelzal missiles. The tests were carried out by the staff of the Defense Ministry's Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. They tested upgrades including improvements to the system's radar, which should enable it to operate more quickly and smoothly and to cope with broader threats than in the past.
“The Iron Dome success rate is roughly 90 percent,” said Israeli Defense Force spokeswoman Libby Weiss in July 2014. Hamas militants fired more than 1,000 rockets from Gaza at Israeli cities in the second week of July. Typically, air raid sirens blare and residents have between 15 and 90 seconds to head to bomb shelters and safe rooms in their homes.
Theodore Postol, a physicist and missile-defense expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other scientists say that Iron Dome misses the mark more often than not. “The rocket will still go on to the ground and the warhead will still explode,” he said. Postol says that he believes the interception rate could be more like 5 percent, and he says he should know. “Remember, I was the guy who showed that the 96 percent intercept rate claimed for the Patriot missile in the Gulf War of 1991 was instead probably zero, and pretty much everybody now accepts that finding,” he said.
Israel is looking to build on the success of its Iron Dome, used during the Gaza War this summer, by creating a maritime version. The developers say it boasts a 360-degree range and can fire a missile every second. The architect of the new program, Rafael, an Israeli state owned defense contractor, is looking to find buyers for its new sea-based missile system. They believe it could be especially effective in trying to defend and protect economic assets at sea, such as oil and gas platforms.
The C-Dome was unveiled at the Euronaval conference in Le Bourget in October 2014. The maritime system uses similar technology to the land version. The trajectory of an incoming missile is recognized and a counter missile is launched to intercept it. The makers of the defense program say that their new system, ‘C-Dome’, can fire a missile per second, and cover a 360-degree range.
"C-dome offers something that is not out there (in the market) yet ... A small footprint and the capability to engage multiple targets and saturation threats. And it's based on the only system in the world that has more than 1,000 intercepts," said program director Ari Sacher, as reported by AP. "We can protect the ship from every direction at the same time. Most systems out there can't do that."
The Israel Defense website reported on 03 NOvember 2014 that the United States Army will acquire one Iron Dome battery, and based on tests it will conduct on the system decide whether or not to purchase more units of the Israeli defense system. Israel Defense noted that at the beginning of Iron Dome’s development the US Army didn’t have much confidence in the system, which is why it was funded with a special budget and not the ordinary annual US defense budget that is allocated for other anti-missile systems such as the Arrow. Having seen the system proven in war, the US now apparently is considering deploying it to defend military establishments and US soldiers around the world.
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