Thousands of rockets have been fired by Hamas in its attacks on Israel, but very few have hit their targets. The reason: the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system, which has a nearly 90 per cent success rate in intercepting rockets from Gaza.
On August 1, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill to give Israel $225 million to restock its Iron Dome missile defence system, depleted during its ongoing war with Gaza. So what is this state-of-the-art defence system and how does it work?
Though the idea of a dome evokes the image of a large bubble, it is actually a system which targets incoming rockets and fires an interceptor missile to destroy them mid-air.
The system was created in response to the 2006 conflict with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which saw missiles crash into Israeli territory. It made its combat debut in April 2011.
The dome is the world’s only dual mission system that provides an effective defence against rockets and artillery, as well as aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.
HOW IT WORKS
There are seven Iron Dome batteries in all deployed around Israel. Three new interception batteries were announced mid-July to take the load off the previous seven.
Each battery has a firing-control radar to identify targets and has a portable missile launcher.
The system is easily transportable, with just a few hours needed to relocate and set up.
The dome can determine where an incoming rocket will land and only intercept those projectiles that pose threats to populated civilian areas.
DIMENSIONS AND RANGE
The Tamir missile is almost 10 feet long, has a diameter of about 6 inches, weighs 90 kg and has a range of 4 to 70 km. The warhead is believed to carry 11 kg of high explosives.
OTHER DEFENCE SYSTEMS
Iron Dome is the short-range component of Israel’s three-tier anti-missile defences. The others are:
David’s Sling system: Still under development, is intended to shoot down targets in the atmosphere.
Arrow Interceptor system: Designed to intercept longer-range ballistic missiles in space.
Gives around $3.1 bn to Israel each year, mostly in military aid. The US has given more than $700 mn to help Israel cover the costs of the system.
$50 million – Cost of each Iron Dome battery
$50,000 – Cost of each Tamir missile fired
$25 million – Cost of destroying 500 Hamas rockets