Israel has completed testing its Iron Dome short-range missile defense
system, the second component of a planned multi-layered network to
shield the Jewish state from missile attack by Iran, Hezbollah and
The long-range, high-altitude Arrow-II system, which has been
operational since 2000, is designed to knock out ballistic missiles,
with Iran being the primary threat in that sector.
The third layer, to counter intermediate-range missiles, is still being
developed. This system, known as David's Sling, is at least two years
The first Iron Dome battery, which will be deployed in the south to
counter Hamas' rocket fire, will be delivered to the Israeli air force
in about six weeks. It is expected to be operational by May. Others
will be sited in the north later this year.
"Making Iron Dome operational will transform Israel's political and
security situation on the northern and southern fronts," said Pinchas
Buchris, director general of the Defense Ministry.
Iron Dome, developed over the last two years at a cost of $200 million
by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., uses small guided
missiles to destroy short-range rockets used by Hezbollah and Hamas.
The number of batteries that will be required and the cost remains a troubling question.
It is generally accepted that the military would need about 20
batteries to defend the entire northern and southern borders from
Hezbullah and Hamas bombardment. Each battery costs $14 million. The
high operational costs are also causing some consternation.
Each interception of Hamas' Gaza-manufactured Qassam rockets, which cost around $200 apiece, would cost around $100,000.
All this "will require either diverting substantial funds from other
defense projects or significantly increasing the defense budget," the
Haaretz daily noted.
The deployment of Iron Dome, when completed, will provide for the first
time a defense against Hezbollah and Hamas rockets that have plagued
Israel for years. The barrages inflicted few casualties and little
damage, although the political and psychological impact was
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fired some 309 Scud ballistic missiles at
Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, the first time the Jewish state's
population centers had come under bombardment. These were largely
But Hezbollah's relentless rocket bombardment of northern Israel during
the 34-day war in July and August of 2006 changed that. The
Iranian-backed Hezbollah unleashed some 4,000 rockets of various
calibers -- an average of 150-200 per day right up to the final minutes
of the conflict.
Northern Israel was paralyzed. Some 50 people were killed. Israelis
understood that missile bombardment was the shape of things to come.
The Iron Dome project emerged from the 2006 crisis to meet that security threat.
Iran now has Shehab-3 ballistic missiles capable of hitting anywhere in
Israel. These are targets for the long-range, high-altitude Arrow-II
missiles developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the
Boeing Co. with U.S. funding.
Hezbollah is now reported to have in excess of 42,000 Syrian and
Iranian rockets -- around three times the number it had in 2006. These
will now be countered by Iron Dome.
The military and geopolitical implication of the advent of Arrow, Iron
Dome and David's Sling being developed by Rafael and Raytheon of the
United States, are considerable. When all three interlocking systems
are in place Israel will be in a position, to a large extent, to
counter every type of missile and rocket its enemies possess.
Doubtless it will not be able stop every missile if they are fired en
masse but the Jewish state will have greater protection than any other
state on the planet.
The Arab News, published in the Gulf, noted in an editorial Friday that
Iron Dome "represents a change of strategic balance in the same way
that the Russians believe that the U.S. missile shield affects the
global balance of nuclear weaponry Â…
"Israel will soon apparently have cover against rocket assault from anywhere in the Middle East.
"Moscow fears that the proposed U.S. missile shield will allow
Washington to launch a strategic atomic strike and then defend itself
against retaliation," Arab News said.
"Precisely the same analysis must be applied to Israel with its undeclared and illegal nuclear arsenal."