Iron Dome (Israel)

Iron Dome Arrow 3
Iron Dome is an Israeli land-based mobile defense system that is designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery. It was developed to provide an anti-missile defense system to counter Palestinian Qassam rocket attacks. Iron Dome sensors discriminate between rockets that threaten population areas and those that will fall harmlessly. 1 Each Iron Dome battery can defend an area of 150km2 and the system serves an important role in Israel’s multi-layered defense system as the bottom tier that protects Israel from short-range missiles, mortars, and rockets fired from Gaza or Lebanon.

The system detects rockets 4 to 70km away and will engage with interceptors, called Tamirs, to destroy targets mid-air. Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are short-range anti-missile kinetic interceptors that are 3m in length, 0.16m in diameter, weigh 90kg at launch, and have a range of 2 to 40km.2 The system’s proximity fuse interceptors are relatively inexpensive and are estimated to cost around $100,000 each.3 The complete system costs around $100M per battery.4

Iron Dome Development, Testing, and Fielding

Iron Dome completed its final series of testing in July 2010 and was fielded and declared operational in 2011. According to reports, Iron Dome has intercepted over 1,500 targets between 2011 to April 2016.5 During a November 2012 conflict with Hamas, Israeli officials claimed that Iron Dome intercepted 85% of the 400 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip that were projected to hit strategic or civilian population centers.6

The Iron Dome batteries underwent upgrades between 2012 and 2014 and, at the start of the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict, nine batteries were operational, including two that were prematurely forced into service. Prior to the conflict, it was estimated that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had stockpiled up to 10,000 military-grade rocket and mortar shells in Gaza. Over the course of the summer, 4,500 rockets and mortars were launched into Israel. Around 800 were identified as threatening to population centers within Israel and were targeted by the Iron Dome system.7 Of these, 735 were successfully shot down, a 90% success rate for intercepts.8

There were only a few civilian causalities during this conflict, mostly from mortar strikes.9 Israel lauded the Iron Dome system as a “game-changer” that saved hundreds of lives. To contrast, during the 2006 Lebanon War, before Iron Dome was operational, Hezbollah launched 3,970 rockets into Israel. Of these, 901 landed in population centers and 44 Israelis were killed.10 The “lack of Israeli casualties [during the 2014 conflict],” argued one U.S. defense expert, “suggests Iron Dome is the most effective, most tested missile shield the world has ever seen.”11 The Defense Minister at the time, Moshe Ya’alon, noted, “…the Iron Dome system is saving lives and preventing enormous economic damage.”12

U.S. Contribution

Unlike Israel’s other missile defense systems, Iron Dome was initially developed without U.S. aid and Israel retained all technology rights. However, the United States provided funding to the system starting in FY2011 and, as a result of this support, the U.S. Congress called for greater technology sharing and co-production rights. Israel ceded to a co-production agreement in March 2014, essentially allowing for components of the Iron Dome system to be manufactured in the United States, while also providing the Missile Defense Agency with access to previously proprietary technology. Rafael, the Israeli prime for Iron Dome, partnered with Raytheon to manufacture some of the system’s components in the United States.13 Currently, around 55% of the systems components are manufactured in the United States.14

The United States may see benefits in terms of system interoperability. On April 14, 2016, the U.S. Army fired a Tamir interceptor from its developmental Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. This is the first time a foreign interceptor was tested with the system.15

The Iron Dome system served an important role in protecting population centers from rockets and other projectiles fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014. During this time, the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Resolution (P.L. 113-145), which authorized $225M in extra funding for the Iron Dome. From FY2011 to FY2015, including these additional appropriations, the United States provided almost $1.3B to Israel for “Iron Dome batteries, interceptors, co-production costs, and general maintenance.” This includes appropriations of $205M in FY11, $70M in FY12, $194M in FY13, $460M in FY14, and $351M in FY15. .”16 The NDAA for FY2016 authorized “$41,400,000…to the Government of Israel to procure radars for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.”17


Sources

  1. “Arrow Weapon System (AWS),” in IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defence 2012-13, ed. Christopher F. Foss and James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2013), 470-471 & Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” Congressional Research Service, June 10, 2015, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf, 9-10.
  2. “Arrow Weapon System (AWS),” in IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defence 2012-13, 470-47.
  3. Mark Tran, “Iron Dome: Israel’s ‘game-changing’ missile shield,” The Guardian, July 9, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/09/iron-dome-gaza-israel-air-defence-missile.
  4. “Arrow Weapon System (AWS),” in IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defence 2012-13, 470-47.
  5. Barbara Opall-Rome, “Still No Sales for Israel’s Iron Dome,” Defense News, June 14, 2016, http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/show-daily/eurosatory/2016/06/14/still-no-sales-israels-iron-dome/85877004/.
  6. Barbara Starr, “Watching Israel’s missile defense,” CNN, November 20, 2012, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/20/watching-israels-missile-defense/.
  7. Buddhika Jayamaha, “A Daunting Triangle: Turkey, the Kurds, and the ISIL Threat,” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, CTC Sentinel, November/December 2014, Vol. 7, Issue 11, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/a-classical-analysis-of-the-2014-israel-hamas-conflict.
  8. Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel.”
  9. Zachary Goldman, “More than a Missile: Judging Iron Dome,” War on the Rocks, August 11, 2014, http://warontherocks.com/2014/08/more-than-a-missile-judging-iron-dome/.
  10. Lazar Berman, “Israel’s Iron Dome: Why America is investing hundreds of millions of dollars,” AEI, September 24, 2012, https://www.aei.org/publication/israels-iron-dome-why-america-is-investing-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars/.
  11. Mark Tran, “Iron Dome: Israel’s ‘game-changing’ missile shield.”
  12. Zachary Goldman, “More than a Missile: Judging Iron Dome.”
  13. Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” 9-10.
  14. Jen Judson, “Israeli Interceptor Launched From US System Destroys Target,” Defense News, April 20, 2016, http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/weapons/2016/04/20/israeli-interceptor-destroys-target/83294392/.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” 9-10.
  17. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-92, 129 Stat. 1140-1142 (2015).