The Iron Dome: Defender of the home front

By intercepting over 400 rockets, the Iron Dome protected the millions of Israelis targeted by rocket fire during Operation Pillar of Defense

Date: 12/02/2012, 12:17 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

Over the course of the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense, over 1,500 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. That translates into 187 per day, or seven per hour.

Amidst these frightening numbers, the Iron Dome Active Missile Defense System proved its ability to protect Israel’s home front. The system intercepted 421 rockets bound for populated areas, while ignoring those rockets whose flight paths did not endanger Israel’s population. That corresponds to a success rate approaching 90 percent, an unprecedented number in international air defense systems.

The Iron Dome, one of the world’s most advanced rocket defense systems, is an Israeli invention, backed by U.S. support. In the aftermath of the Hezbollah-launched Katyusha barrages during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, a plan was put into motion by the Ministry of Defense to finance a system to intercept short-range rockets, thus minimizing the harm to the home front. Repeated rocket attacks on Israeli cities from the Gaza Strip prompted the deployment of four Iron Dome batteries in southern communities, starting in 2011.

The system’s advanced radar is able to immediately identify a launch. Within seconds, it analyzes the trajectory of the missile and – if headed for a populated area – intercepts it before it lands. Additionally, the system enables the IDF (Zahal) to locate the perpetrators of a given rocket attack. 

In light of the rocket attacks on central Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense, a new, upgraded model of the battery – originally planned for January – was completed and deployed in Gush Dan two months sooner than intended. The remarkable, box-shaped battery – the size of a small car – was stationed there to safeguard the lives of the millions of Israeli citizens in the greater Tel Aviv area.

Cpl. Lolly Sallay, 21, who moved from Paris at the age of 12, was assigned to operate the battery in Gush Dan. “It’s amazing to be able to protect so many civilians; they appreciate us so much. The locals frequently come by to show us their love and support,” said Cpl. Sallay. “I feel confident in the system. I actually feel safer here than in France; I’m not afraid at all.”

World leader in aerial defense

The Iron Dome has received widespread international acclaim, and several other countries, including the U.S., have expressed interest in purchasing the system for their own use.  “The Iron Dome battery is a great success,” U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. (****) Martin E. Dempsey said during a recent visit to the Iron Dome battery stationed in Israel’s southern city of Ashkelon. “It is a great honor to visit the [Iron Dome] battery, which protects the State of Israel, and know that we are part of this project.”

“The IDF (Zahal), the Israel Air Force, and the Air Defense Command have the most advanced capabilities in the world in defense against missiles and rockets,” Brig. Gen. Shachar Shochat, Head of the IAF’s Air Defense Wing, recently stated. “We have thousands of soldiers working 24/7, 365 days a year, with anticipation and focus, in the central mission of the Air Force, which is protecting the skies of the country.”