Thursday, April 7, 2011


Israel claims that their new Iron Dome anti-missile defense shield has shot down a rocket fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.  This is pretty significant.  Israel has committed to better protecting its citizens from Palestinian rocket attacks, which have killed scores of Israelis in the past decade.  These attacks, primarily using locally made 17mm Qassam rockets supplemented with imported 122mm Grad rockets, are aimed at terrorizing the Israeli citizenry.  These weapons have no guidance other than the "If you point it up at x degrees of elevation at the launcher, it will probably hit x kilometers away" school of fire direction.

Basically, a few time-delayed single-shot rocket launchers are set up in a Palestinian settlement, and "aimed" at an Israeli city.  The terrorists leave, the rockets fire after a preset time, and the rockets fly in the general direction of Israel, with no real guidance system other than "over yonder".  If Israel retaliates by hitting the location of the launchers, all they will normally hit is a Palestinian home, with the attendant CNN shot of wounded or dead Palestinian children that have been placed for the cameras.  Remember, when an American or Israeli rocket or bomb hits the wrong house and hurts someone, we're evil imperialists.  When Hamas launches a couple dozen unguided rockets into an Israeli neighborhood, they're freedom fighters.

The Iron Dome system appears to be roughly analogous to the American Patriot system, although the Tamir missile is designed to be used against artillery rockets instead of the Patriot's anti-air and anti-ballistic missile roles.  There is a radar subsystem, a command and control subsystem, and a missile interceptor.   Its sophistication will probably allow it to discriminate between incoming rounds that are going to impact in a field and those that are going to actually hit a subdivision.  On launch, the Tamir interceptor closes with the target and destroys it.

One issue with the system appears to be cost.  Each interceptor costs as much as $50,000, and requires a modern factory to manufacture.  A Qassam rocket costs a few hundred dollars to make, and can be slapped together in any Gaza machine shop using scrap metal and a few pounds of smuggled explosives.  That's quite a premium that Israel is willing to pay in order to knock cheap rockets out of the sky.

Another issue may be how the system handles an environment saturated with targets.  Obviously it can handle the normal attack with a few rockets, but how will it perform when Hamas changes tactics and starts launching a couple hundred small, inexpensive rockets at once?  Will the command and control system be able to pick out the targets that are most likely to impact in an Israeli neighborhood in order to conserve a finite number of interceptors?

Also, this is a purpose built system.  If Hamas learns that rockets are no longer effective, will they switch over to mortars or even just setting up a couple worn out heavy machine guns and spraying a few thousand rounds of plain old bullets into the sky in the general direction of Haifa?  I hope that Israel is well into development of their next set of technology and tactics to deal with Hamas's indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians.

Congratulations to Israel in demonstrating that they can provide protection to their citizens against the cowardly rocket attacks from Hamas.  I hope that their system scales well enough that they can continue to provide that protection once Hamas changes tactics and tries to saturate Israeli defenses.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

They are willing to spend the $$ to protect their citizens... can't be all bad! At at $50k/round, that is actually pretty cheap...

Creative Commons License
DaddyBear's Den by DaddyBear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at