What is Israel’s Iron Dome and how does it work?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war against Palestinian militants after they launched a surprise attack on his country on Saturday.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, led the deadly, multi-front attack that left at least 200 people dead.
Israel has touted the success of its Iron Dome air defense system, but it’s not yet clear how effective the system was in today’s attack given the number of rockets launched into Israel.
What is the Iron Dome?
The Iron Dome is Israel’s air missile defense system that can defend against short-range rockets, intercepting them in the air above the state. According to Israel’s Ministry of Defense, it’s capable of successfully handling multiple rockets at a time.
Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, the system became operational in March 2011 and performed its first interception of a rocket from Gaza in April 2011. Since then, it’s intercepted thousands of rockets.
The system was designed to respond to threats from Gaza and Southern Lebanon.
“The system has successfully prevented countless rockets from hitting Israeli communities,” the ministry wrote online.
The Iron Dome is part of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), which has several other systems. David’s Sling intercepts short-to-medium and medium-to-long-range missiles, the Arrow-2 intercepts medium to long-range missiles and the Arrow-3 intercepts long-range missiles.
The United States partnered with Israel’s Iron Dome Department to develop the system. U.S. Defense Secretary visited Tel Aviv in 2020 and saw the Iron Dome when the U.S. purchased two of its own. The IMDO receives joint funding with the United States Missile Defense Agency to carry out joint initiatives.
“The great relationship between these two organizations also translates into the cooperation between Israeli and American defense industries, which serve as key contributors to the development and production processes of the defense array,” the ministry said online.
How does it work?
The Iron Domes uses MMR Radar to detect what a rocket’s route is. The system’s command and control center analyzes the trajectory of the rocket and its estimated landing area, Israel’s Ministry of Defense said.
The launcher receives the order to operate from the command and control unit to fire a rocket and intercept the incoming one. The artificial intelligence component of the system determines if people would be in danger of the incoming missile. If a missile is not determined to be a threat, the system will let the rocket land.
Since it’s a short-range system, the Iron Dome is designed to shoot down missiles with a range of about 40 miles or less. It also has the ability to be moved, either onto ships or across land, to better suit defense needs.
The Iron Dome must be reloaded to continuously intercept incoming missiles.