What Is Israel’s Iron Dome? And How Does This Missile Shield Work?


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What Is Israel’s Iron Dome? And How Does This Defense System Work?

Ever Wonder: What Is Israel’s Iron Dome? And How Does This Missile Shield Work?

by Rita Ogada | Contributing Writer | Eternal Affairs Media

IMAGE VIA dw.com

The Israeli Iron Dome is a highly sophisticated defense system that shields Israel from impending missile aerial attacks. It’s designed to intercept short range rockets that are targeted toward heavily populated and strategic areas.

This technology came up after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war when thousands of rockets were fired by Hezbollah toward Israel. The air strikes killed about 44 Israeli civilians and forced more than 250,000 Israelis to flee to other cities and confine 1 million Israelis to nearby bomb shelters. 

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It was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Israeli Aerospace Industries in 2006 as a deterrent to attacks along Israel’s long borders with Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, and Egypt. 

The defense system was deployed for operation on March 27, 2011 and was first used in combat on April 7, 2011 to intercept a rocket fired at Beersheba. According to Israeli officials, the iron dome defense system achieved a 90% success rate.   

How Does Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Shield Work?


Iron Dome is a short-range missile defense system used to intercept rockets, artillery and mortar shells fired at ranges of up to 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) away. The system can determine within seconds whether incoming projectiles will hit populated areas or open land, and only fires on those headed toward cities. It uses radar technology that can track hundreds of targets simultaneously, and calculates a threat’s trajectory to determine where it will land. Iron Dome batteries are mobile, which means they can be quickly deployed in any location that requires protection from incoming fire.

Each battery utilizes three main components: Tamir missiles, Elta EL/M-2084 X band multi-mission radar (MMR) & a battle management control (BMC) room with command systems. Each battery is also equipped with 3 – 4 launchers, each holding 20 Tamir missiles. 

The fourth component, which is the Battle Management Center (BMC), controls all aspects of the system. The BMC receives target information from the Air Force’s air surveillance center and passes it on to teams on the ground who validate the data before passing it on to the weapon systems themselves. The BMC also uses advanced algorithms to predict where rockets will land based on previous patterns observed during attacks.

The system also includes David’s Sling, which can intercept medium-range missiles, and Arrow 3, which can hit intercontinental ballistic missiles outside Earth’s atmosphere.

Iron Dome “Saturation Point”

One of the weaknesses acclaimed on the iron dome is that it has a ‘saturation point’. Meaning there’s a maximum number of rockets the missiles can handle at one time. 

Severally, the Islamic Jihadists and Gaza have attempted to overwhelm the iron dome system to the “saturation point” but to no success. It is claimed that the iron dome has a high saturation point that remains unknown since the Israeli Defense Forces have always managed to maintain a 90% success rate in intercepting air raids.

How Effective is The Israel Iron Dome?

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the defense system has maintained a success rate of 85-90% since its inception in March 2011.

In May of 2018, a report on Israel’s Channel 2 News revealed that the Iron Dome had successfully intercepted over 90% of its targets since it was introduced. The report also said that the success rate is closer to 95% when only rockets headed toward populated areas are considered. The incredible success rate of the Iron Dome has been made possible by computerized missile tracking systems, which have increased precision and reduced risk.

The system is said to have intercepted more than 2,000 missiles since it was first launched, protecting the citizens of Israel from rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah as well as errant fire from Gaza. 

It has also become a symbol of Israeli ingenuity and perseverance, an engineering triumph that has prevented countless casualties and offered the population a sense of safety. There are currently 10 batteries deployed across Israel, with many more ordered for future use.

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Israel Iron Dome Range

The iron dome defense system can hit fired rockets from distances ranging at 4km or 2.5 miles to 70 km (43 miles). The main target is usually on rockets projected to hit populated areas. 

The system is typically optimized for intercepting one or two rockets in free flight, with a particular focus on those that pose the greatest threat. It employs radar to track incoming projectiles such as short-range rockets and 155-millimeter artillery shells. Once it detects a rocket, it calculates whether the rocket will land in an open area or if it will hit a populated area where it could cause harm. If a rocket is deemed to be headed toward an inhabited area, the system fires an interceptor missile that destroys the threat mid-air.

It’s designed to reject decoys, such as mylar balloons, by distinguishing between incoming rockets that are a real threat and those that are not.

The Iron Dome can operate day or night and in all weather conditions, but only “when required,” according to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., the manufacturers of this system.

Which Countries Have The Iron Dome?

As a result of successful interceptions against aerial attacks through the iron dome defense system, several countries have expressed interest in acquiring the system. Among those are the United States, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Brazil, India, Poland, Romania, and India

The only disadvantage is that the system can protect a maximum area of 100 to 150 square kilometers or 39 to 58 square miles. This proves effective in small countries like Israel and not larger countries like the United States. However, the U.S. acquired two batteries worth 373 million dollars to aid in overseas military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Azerbaijan was the first country to sign a deal with Israel to purchase the iron dome system. In December 2016, Yavar Jamalov, the then Azerbaijan’s Defense Industry Minister, signed a deal to acquire the system with speculation that this purchase was because the neighboring country, Armenia, ordered the Russian Iskander short-range ballistic missiles. 

India also considered purchasing the system but preferred developing their own version of the iron dome defense system. According to Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, the then commander of the Indian Air Force in 2013, the Israeli adaptation of the Iron dome was not suitable for India’s military service. This is because Israeli’s system was designed to fire short-range rockets. 

However, India adopted Israel’s system technology in their domestic long-range Indian Ballistic Missile Air Defense System. 

Defenses with similar functionality have also been developed by other countries including Russia’s S-300VM designed for tactical operations against ballistic missiles, and China’s HQ-16 designed for tactical operations against aircraft and cruise missiles.

Israel’s Iron Dome In Action


Who Funds the Israel Iron Dome Defense System?

The Iron Dome missile defense system is funded by the United States and the government of Israel. The States has also provided over $1 billion in funding to Israel for Iron Dome since 2011. The United States also provides Israel with annual military aid of approximately $3 billion — more than any other country in the world.

The funding was initially done by the Israeli government which led to the establishment of the first two iron dome systems. As more batteries were added to the defense system, the United States began funding the supply of iron domes. 

As of 2021, the U.S. has provided $1.6 billion in funding to Israel for the Iron dome. In 2022, the U.S. congress approved a further $1 billion contribution toward further development of the iron dome defense system. 

The Cost of Missiles

For each individual iron dome system, the battery alone costs US $100 million to produce, implement and maintain. Each missile initially cost $100,000 to launch but recent improvements have lowered the cost by half with current costs ranging between $40,000 to $50,000. 

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Can The Iron Dome Defense System Help Ukraine Fight Russia?

In the escalating war between Russia and Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed Israel via a video link urging the country to reinforce their defense systems using iron dome missile technology. 

However, according to experts, providing the iron dome missile system to defend Ukrainian citizens may not be as easy as one sees with the eye. 

John Blaxland, a professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University, stated that the Iron dome has limited coverage and may not be as effective in a large country like Ukraine but may serve specific target locations like Kyiv. 

Israel uses missiles that intercept short-range rockets fired from nearby cities such as Gaza. The Iron Dome systems are placed in strategic locations where target threats are anticipated to come from.  

Latest Upgrades and Further Tests on Israel’s Iron Dome

Since its inception, Israel has constantly worked on upgrading the software and hardware integration system of the iron dome. 

The C-Dome

The C-Dome is a naval defense system designed to protect Israel against saturation attacks within blue and littoral waters. 

This innovative system, which is capable of firing multiple targets simultaneously, is a modernized version of the Iron Dome created to defend Israel’s surface water vessels from missiles, artillery shells, helicopters and unmanned drone attacks. It’s particularly adapted for use at sea in small ships and maritime facilities.

Due to its use on ships at sea, it features additional innovations that include an advanced radar system with a 360-degree range that’s integrated with the ship’s combat management system. The engines are also stronger which allows it to operate faster and efficiently. 

Assembled in its launcher are 10 ‘Tamir’ missiles all positioned and launched vertically from the Vertical Launcher Unit located below the ship’s deck. These missiles have increased maneuverability which give them a better chance of hitting specific targets in midair. The rockets are also equipped with a new proximity sensor that allows them to explode prematurely if they’re close enough to their target—this reduces the damage to any ships or structures that might be nearby.

The most important innovation of the C-Dome is its ability to adapt as needed rather than relying on one fixed strategy. For example, if there are several targets coming at once, it can choose which ones pose the greatest threat and neutralize them accordingly.

By installing the C-Dome in small ships at sea, the defense system not only protects the missile’s host vessel, but also secures surrounding ships, oil and gas installations around the area.  

Testing of The C-Dome Naval Point Defense System

In February 2022, the updated Naval version of the C-Dome was successfully tested as reported by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) via their twitter account @Israel_MOD

Live fire tests simulating real life rocket threats were conducted from Israeli’s Navy Ship Sa’ar 6 Magen Class corvette. The tests proved that the C-Dome is capable of defending strategic maritime assets of the Israeli Navy against potential threats.  

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