The Israeli Air Force: A technical overview9 October 2023
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The Iron Dome is one of the world’s most advanced missile defense systems. Developed by Israeli defense company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, in collaboration with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), it is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to 70 kilometers (43 miles).
Main features of the Iron Dome :
Radar and detection system
Radar is the eye of any modern missile defense system. For the Iron Dome, the radar system is essential to its operational success.
Elta’s role: Elta Systems, part of Israel Aerospace Industries, is responsible for developing the state-of-the-art radar system used by the Iron Dome. Elta, one of the leaders in radar technology, has developed a radar capable of detecting incoming projectiles quickly and efficiently.
Detection and tracking: When an enemy rocket or shell is fired, the Iron Dome radar system immediately detects it. The aim is to determine the projectile’s speed, trajectory and potential point of impact. Given the short distances from which many rockets are fired into Israel, particularly from the Gaza Strip, this detection and decision-making process takes place in just a few seconds.
Interception involves launching a counter-missile to neutralize the threat before it can cause any damage.
Risk assessment: As soon as the incoming projectile is detected and tracked, the Iron Dome command and control system assesses whether it represents a significant threat. This includes whether it will land in populated areas, near critical infrastructure or in open fields.
Tamir missile: if an incoming projectile is considered a threat, the Iron Dome reacts by launching an interceptor missile called Tamir. Designed to be agile and fast, the Tamir interceptor moves to collide with the incoming rocket, neutralizing it with a proximity fuse that detonates the Tamir missile’s warhead close to the threat.
One of the unique features of the Iron Dome is its ability to be selective about what it intercepts.
Cost-effectiveness: Intercepting missiles is expensive. Tamir interceptor missiles are expensive, and intercepting every incoming projectile can be economically unsustainable.
Threat analysis: The system’s advanced radar and computer algorithms calculate where each incoming projectile will land. If a rocket is heading for an uninhabited area, such as a field or desert, the system can decide not to intercept it. This saves the cost of intercepting missiles and reduces unnecessary launches.
A high success rate
The effectiveness of Iron Dome is one of its defining characteristics.
Operational success: Since its deployment, the system has repeatedly come up against real threats. By most accounts, its interception rate is very high, with some reports suggesting it exceeds 90%. This means that for every 100 rockets considered a threat and targeted by the system, 90 are successfully intercepted.
Not infallible: While Iron Dome’s success rate is impressive, it’s essential to understand that no defense system is perfect. There will always be technological, operational or situational limits. Multiple rocket salvos, electronic warfare and other factors can undermine any missile defense system. Nevertheless, Iron Dome has considerably reduced the potential damage and casualties of short-range rocket attacks against Israel.
Iron Dome was developed in response to the threats facing Israel, particularly short-range rockets fired by militant groups from the Gaza Strip. Since its initial deployment in 2011, the system has been widely used and has intercepted thousands of projectiles, significantly reducing the number of potential civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.
During the various escalations of the conflict, notably between Israel and militant factions in Gaza, Iron Dome has played a vital role in defending Israeli towns and villages from rocket barrages.
Expansion and future :
Beyond the Iron Dome, Israel has developed a multi-layered air defense system to counter a variety of aerial threats:
David’s Slingshot: Designed to counter medium- to long-range missiles and drones.
Arrow system: focused on intercepting long-range ballistic missiles, including intercontinental missiles.
The Iron Dome continues to be modernized to improve its capabilities and effectiveness. In addition, its success has attracted the attention of the international community, leading to export agreements and collaborative defense projects with several countries.
The Iron Dome represents a modern approach to missile defense, combining advanced radar systems, real-time threat analysis and rapid-response interception. It demonstrates Israel’s commitment to defending its population against the threat of rocket attacks, and is an important element in the country’s layered air defense strategy.
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