How Effective is Israel’s Iron Dome Air Defense System?
Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome defense system is more like an iron sieve. It fails to destroy all but a few of the rockets that Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups fire at Israeli communities. But Israel’s early-warning civil-defense systems have proved highly effective.
The radar-guided Iron Dome missile, meant to intercept and smash incoming rockets in the seconds before they strike their targets, works just a small fraction of the time, according to a detailed analysis carried out by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Ploughshares Fund.
Ted Postol, a physicist at the university and an expert in missiles and missile defenses, has found evidence that only about 5 percent of Iron Dome engagements result in the targeted rocket being destroyed or even sufficiently damaged to disable its explosive warhead. In the other 95 percent of cases, the interceptor either misses entirely or just lightly damages the enemy munition, allowing the rocket’s intact warhead to continue arcing toward the ground.
Postol based his conclusion on a careful analysis of amateur videos and photos of Iron Dome interceptions over the past three years. He admitted that most of his data is from a previous round of fighting in 2012. “The data we have collected so far [for 2014], however, indicate the performance of Iron Dome has not markedly improved,” Postol wrote on the website of the nonprofit Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
“Israel’s low casualty rate from Hamas rockets,” Postol wrote, “is largely attributable to the country’s well-developed early-warning and quick-sheltering system for citizens under imminent rocket attack.” Military radars and infrared sensors detect rocket launches the instant they happen. Air-raid sirens alert civilians to head for underground bunkers.
Comment: Israel’s Home Front Command began their their siren alert system to notify civilians of a specified time to enter bomb shelters in October of 2010. Prior to that,17 Israelis had been killed since 2001. A total of 31 Israelis have been killed from rocket and mortar fire since that time. To put this in perspective the number of Palestinian killed in these past few weeks alone have now exceeded 1,000.