some reflections on the effectiveness of israel’s missile defense systems (principally iron dome)

Iranian Media Reveals How Some Hamas Rockets Have Been Defeating Israel’s Iron Dome
Ilya Tsukanov, Sputnik News, May 15 2021

The Israeli military has long touted its cutting-edge air defences, with the Iron Dome, Arrow 3, Barak 8, and David’s Sling designed to protect the country from threats ranging from small rockets to long-range ballistic and cruise missiles. However, the ongoing firefight with Hamas in Gaza has shown that no air defence system is perfect. The technical limitations of the Iron Dome, combined with the improving range and speed characteristics of Hamas’ rockets, are making it increasingly difficult for Israel’s advanced air defences to counter the militant group’s attacks, Iranian defence journalist Seyed Mohammad Taheri suggests. Taheri wrote in a piece for Tasnim (below – RB):

Several days have passed since the start of a new round of clashes between the Zionist army and Palestinian resistance groups, and in the spotlight more than anything is the power of resistance groups’ rockets, their ability to fire large volumes of these rockets into the depths of the occupied territories, and Israeli air defence systems’ battle with them.

The observer believes the Israeli military first discovered the growing missile power of its adversaries during the 2006 Lebanon War, when Hezbollah militants fired thousands of rockets into Israel, bombarding cities, towns, and villages in retaliation to a similar Israeli Air Force campaign against its northern neighbour. The Iron Dome was set up in 2011, becoming a central component of Israel’s multilayered air and missile defence system, with an aerospace defence system divided by region replaced with an integrated system covering the whole of the country. The Iron Dome itself is perhaps tasked with the most important role among Israel’s air defence systems when it comes to battling non-state entities such as Hamas and Hezbollah, given its responsibility for dealing with unsophisticated, low-speed, low-altitude rockets like those launched by non-state actors. More advanced systems such as the Arrow 3 are meant to counter threats including ballistic and cruise missiles. However, Taheri suggests that while the Iron Dome has seen plenty of real-life “testing,” the other air defence systems of the regime’s military, except in a few cases, have not yet entered into a serious conflict, and therefore their performance is disputed. Each Iron Dome system is equipped with radar and command and control modules and three launchers, the latter armed with 20 Tamir interceptor missiles apiece. Israel has a total of 12 Iron Dome systems in its arsenal. The Iron Dome has several weaknesses, according to Taheri:

First, the number of available systems is not enough to cover the country and therefore, in the event of a multi-front war, the system will not be able to respond to all rocket and missile attacks, and Israel’s low-altitude air defences will be extremely vulnerable.

Second, he notes, the system is not able to intercept missiles or rockets fired from less than 4 km away, meaning that the placement of enemy launchers at distances closer than this poses a “serious threat to the system.” Additionally, the Iron Dome cannot track targets flying at high speeds and with a flight time of less than 28 seconds.

Furthermore, the warheads of the missiles used in this system are equipped with a proximity fuse, with the optimal distance for destroying the target being one meter; otherwise the possibility of its fragments penetrating the target and destroying it are reduced.

An inability to deal with high volumes of fire simultaneously, and resistance groups’ recognition of this fact, is another major problem, he believes. Additionally, the high price of the Iron Dome’s interceptor missiles versus the low cost of the rockets used by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah makes shoot downs a costly effort, notwithstanding multi-billion dollar US subsidies to the Israeli military. Taheri writes:

According to openly available information, each Iron Dome missile costs between $40k and $100k, whereas the price of each rocket fired by the Palestinian groups is between $1k and $5k.

Finally, Taheri suggests that the improved speed, accuracy, range, and potency of rockets now used by the militants are another problem for Israeli air defence systems. He indicates:

The increased power of resistance rockets has caused the scope of the war, once limited to the borders of the Gaza Strip, to extend to the depths of the occupied territory. In addition to endangering the security of the regime’s sensitive areas and facilities, they have disrupted the daily lives of citizens and increased dissatisfaction with the government and the army.

Taheri stresses that the gradual improvement of Hamas’s missiles, and the careful study of the strengths and weaknesses of Israeli air defences as a whole and the Iron Dome in particular, have enabled the militants to establish a previously unseen level of power vis-à-vis Israel. He warns:

If this continues, it will lead resistance groups to acquire more advanced weapons than those they have today, and to inflict even heavier blows against the Zionist regime.

Israeli defence giant Rafael boasts that its Iron Dome has an interception rate of 90%, and says that over 2.5k Hamas and Hezbollah missiles had been intercepted successfully between 2011 and Jan 2021. However, the Israeli military has a slightly lower estimation of the system’s accuracy, saying it varies from 85% and 90%. Furthermore, even before the recent flare-up of fighting, Israeli intelligence and national security officials reportedly warned the government of militants’ ability to launch as many as 1k rockets into Israel in one day, an eventuality which would pierce the Iron Dome shield. On Friday, The Jerusalem Post intelligence and terrorism editor Yonah Jeremy Bob wrote that even Hamas, which is considerably weaker than Hezbollah or any state actor Israel may encounter, may have found a way to partially undermine the Iron Dome by firing massed volleys of rockets simultaneously, overwhelming the air defence system. Bob stressed:

Does this mean the Iron Dome is no longer effective? No. It still intercepts the majority of rockets fired at Israeli population centers, although some are getting through. The bigger question is whether Israeli intelligence estimates are correct that Hamas has only a few hundred missiles which can reach Tel Aviv. If those estimates are accurate, then Hamas may have used up a large chunk of that arsenal, “even if it has thousands more which can hit Beersheba, Ashdod and other communities near the Gaza border. But if Hamas has more of those longer-range rockets, this could impact Israel’s plans for this round of violence and especially the question of how long it wants it to last.

How does Tasnim report on the impact of resistance missile power on the Israeli defense structure / Hamas rockets passing through the Iron Dome?
Seyed Mohammad Taheri, Tasnim, May 25 (2021)

A few days have passed since the beginning of a new round of clashes between the Zionist regime army and Palestinian resistance groups, and what is in the center of attention more than anything else is the high rocket power of resistance groups and firing large volumes of these rockets. The depths of the occupied territories and the confrontation of the Israeli army’s air defense systems with them. Since the beginning of the conflict, there have been various comments about the capability of the Israeli army’s defense systems, to the point that some have assessed their capability as positive and some as lacking the ability to counter Palestinian rockets. To take a closer look at the Israeli army’s air defense capabilities, we must first become familiar with the regime’s air defense structure, organization, and equipment, and then look at their strengths and weaknesses.

Since 2006, after the 33-day war, as well as three subsequent wars with Palestinian factions, the Israeli army has realized that it will now face far-reaching threats aimed at threatening the depths of the occupied territories. Therefore, the commanders of the regime’s army had to make fundamental changes in the structure and organization of the regime’s air defense. With the introduction of the Iron Dome defense system into the air defense structure of the Israeli army in 2011, the theory of multi-layered air defense was introduced, and this theory became operational in the second half of 2016. In this regard, the name of “Anti-Aircraft Organization” was changed to “Air Defense Organization” and “Missile Defense Organization” was merged in its heart. According to this theory, the regional defense (northern, central, southern front) of the airspace of the occupied territories was also eliminated and gave way to an integrated defense system.

In the new theory, a center called the “National Center for Ballistic Image Management” was created, which is responsible for issuing national warnings and managing operations to detect, intercept and destroy all types of air targets. The center is based in Tel Aviv and is responsible for centralized conflict management with all types of air threats, taking over all reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, radar and defense systems throughout the Occupied Territories. Other changes in the defense structure of the Israeli army, based on the theory of multi-layered defense, are the dissolution of defense regiments and the creation of battalions of defense systems. has it.

The defense systems of the Zionist Army are organized in such a way that the Iron Dome systems, which are organized in the form of the 137th and 947th Battalions, are responsible for dealing with low-altitude targets. After that, the 138th and 139th Battalions of the Patriot System and the 66th Battalion of the David’s Sling System are tasked with engaging medium-altitude targets, and the 136th “Defensive Sword” Battalion, consisting of the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, has been deployed to counter high-altitude threats and ballistic missiles. Among the IDF defense systems, the Iron Dome is the only one that changes positions according to the geographical scope of the threats, and the regime’s other defense systems are permanently stationed at their bases.

The Iron Dome system was designed in 2011 with the aim of countering threats at low altitudes with a range of 4 to 70 km and with the aim of protecting the towns and sensitive areas of the regime. Each Iron Dome system includes an EL / M2084 radar, a command and control center, and three launchers, each capable of carrying and firing 20 Tamir missiles. A total of 12 iron dome systems are used to defend the skies of the occupied territories.

Launcher launch of standard missiles of David’s Sling Defense System

The David’s Sling system, which entered service in 2016, is responsible for countering threats from a range of 70 km to 300 km. David’s Sling also uses an EL / M2084 radar, and each of its firearms has six firing platforms for 12 missiles, which use the Stunner defense missile. At present, 3 batteries of David’s Sling are deployed in the occupied territories in the form of a defense battalion.

Arrow 2 and 3 missile defense systems

The Arrow System, which consists of three Arrow 2 batteries and one Arrow 3 battery, also has the task of engaging with targets at high altitude and range by having a GreenPine radar. In fact, these two systems are designed to deal with Iranian ballistic missiles. So far, we have a brief overview of the Israeli army’s air defense structure, as well as its defense systems. It is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, the Iron Dome refers to the entire structure of Israel’s defense. It is one of the defense systems of the Zionist regime’s army, which has fallen on deaf ears due to its many uses.

In view of the above, and despite the fact that the Zionist regime has made serious changes in the structure of its air defense since the 2006 war, we still see that its air defense organization is not able to fully protect itself against rocket attacks by resistance groups. More recently, a missile strike near the Dimona nuclear power plant has cast serious doubt on the organization’s ability to defend the skies over the occupied territories. On the other hand, the only Israeli defense system that has been active in recent years is the Iron Dome system, and other defense systems of the regime army, except for a few cases, have not yet entered into a serious conflict, and therefore the correctness of their operation is questionable.

Rocket Launchers Repair Iron Dome Defense System

The Iron Dome system also has several weaknesses. First, the number of available systems is not able to cover all the occupied territories, and therefore in the event of a multi-front war, this system will not be able to respond to rocket and missile attacks, and the air defense of the Israeli low altitude will be extremely vulnerable.

How the Iron Dome defense system works

The system is also unable to intercept missiles and rockets fired from a distance of less than 4 km due to lack of time to detect and intercept targets, and the proliferation of resistance rocket launchers at this distance is a serious threat to the system. On the other hand, the Iron Dome system can not track targets that have high speed and flight time of less than 28 seconds.

Iron Dome Defense System Missile

Also, the warheads of the missiles used in this system are equipped with a proximity fuse, which is the best condition for destroying the target when it is targeted at a distance of one meter, otherwise the possibility of its fragments penetrating the target body and destroying it is reduced.

Image of the confrontation of the Iron Dome system with resistance rockets

On the other hand, one of the weaknesses of this system is its inability to cope with large volumes of fire; This is an issue that the resistance groups have also realized, and this is one of the reasons why these groups fired rockets at high volumes. The high price of missiles for the Iron Dome system versus the low price of missiles of resistance groups is something that will greatly increase the cost of the battle for the Zionists. According to published information, each Iron Dome missile costs between $40k and $100 k. This is if the price of each rocket fired by Palestinian groups is between $1k and $5k. On the other hand, the type of rockets used by resistance groups in previous years had a lower speed, accuracy and volume of destruction than the rockets used by these groups in recent wars.

An example of the rockets of the battalions of Martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the military branch of Hamas

Palestinian groups in the recent war used rockets that, in addition to better range and volume of destruction, also have higher speed and accuracy, which has made the Iron Dome system much more difficult than in the past. The increasing power of the resistance rockets has caused the scope of the war, which was once limited to the borders of the Gaza Strip, to extend to the depths of the occupied territories; In addition to endangering the security of the regime’s sensitive and security centers, this has disrupted the daily lives of the inhabitants of the occupied territories and has increased dissatisfaction with the government and the army of this regime.

Fighters of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades load rockets into launchers to fire on occupied territories

This shows that the resistance groups have gradually increased the quality of their rockets and missiles by carefully studying the strengths and weaknesses of the Zionist Army Air Defense Organization and especially its Iron Dome system, and so far they have been able to balance the acceptable power with the Zionist regime. If this continues, it will lead the resistance groups to acquire much more advanced weapons than today and to inflict heavier blows on the Zionist regime.

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