element in the operation of Iron Dome: Some crews are better than
others, and training and experience count…..American missile-defense crews get little live-fire training…..U.S. military should rethink the way it trains its missile-defense
A valuable overview of missile defense.
To the horror of peace activists everywhere (torture never works!!, missile defense never works!!!) the Iron Dome works. However this is a cautionary tale. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) says that it needs 13-15 Iron Domes for full coverage, only nine are operational. Expense is probably not an issue, we will put on our best “Jews own the world” hat and assume that there will be a fair good number of billionaires willing to pony up for an Iron Dome with their name inscribed on it.
But it may also be the case that Israel does not take the threats too seriously and is using Hamas as a punching bag. Hamas no doubt deserves every bit of the bitter medicine but the problem is that the leaders (and even troops) are hiding in deep tunnels, while the civilians are bearing the brunt of this brutal war.
So….. if Israel has perfected missile defense, Hamas has also perfected missile offense. While Israel has attacked Gaza with tanks, Hamas has a few nifty (30m deep!!!) tunnels which are being used to launch surprise attacks inside Israel. Both sides gain from the ability to keep the water boiling at the right temperature (following what a famous Pakistani general had once said).
Worldwide muslims are living under varying degree of occupations by non-muslim powers in Kashmir, Xinjiang, Palestine and Chechnya (there are less prominent ones as well). Of course many more muslims are living under the domination of muslim dictators and tyrants. It gives us no pleasure to say that the first set seem to be better off than the second one. It is a false choice really, all muslims should be free to pray and fast (and not pray and fast as well) and get on with their lives.
Between the fall of the Jewish Commonwealth to the Romans in the first
century A.D. and the founding of Israel in 1948, Jews were remarkably
easy to kill. Not anymore.
Today, thanks to an innovative missile-defense system called Iron Dome (in Hebrew Kipat Barzel),
it’s harder than ever. Yet when it was first proposed, many Israeli
defense experts (and one way or another most Israelis consider
themselves defense experts) were reluctant to support the idea of a
defensive response to rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon.
Throughout the history of warfare there has been conflict between
those who believe in the strength of a defensive posture and those who
put their faith in the attack. Aside from the proponents of the nuclear
doctrine known as Mutual Assured Destruction, no one has ever seriously
claimed that an exclusively offensive or defensive strategy is viable.
Some military organizations have traditionally put more emphasis on
defense and others on offense.
Israel, because of its small size, has always preferred to fight
offensively. If there is going to be a war, let it happen on the other
guy’s territory. This made sense in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1973,
however, the IDF’s lightly fortified positions in the Golan Heights and
on the east bank of the Suez Canal were overwhelmed in the initial Arab
This led to the delusion that the Bar Lev line in Sinai was somehow
an Israeli version of France’s disastrous Maginot Line at the beginning
of World War II. In fact, it was a set of positions built during the War
of Attrition (1968–70) to protect Israeli soldiers from Egyptian
artillery fire, and hadn’t been intended as a line of defense capable of
repelling a full-blown attack. The costly success of the IDF’s
offensive across the canal and the drive on Damascus in the north
convinced Israel’s military leaders that their attack-centered doctrine
was the correct one; it just needed better tanks.
In spite of this doctrine’s failure to work as planned during the
Lebanon war that began in 1982, Israel’s leaders remained committed to
an offensive-minded strategy. However, they knew that their enemies were
beginning to equip themselves with long-range missiles. Indeed, Egypt
had used a few early-model Scuds during the Yom Kippur War.
Thus, when the Reagan administration offered Israel the chance to
take part in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) missile-defense
program in 1983, a small faction inside the IDF leaped at the chance.
Gradually Israeli leaders came to recognize that missile defense was
just as important as other forms of air power. Thanks in part to U.S.
funding, the Arrow missile-defense system was built and deployed along
with a limited number of Patriot-missile batteries. Israelis had long
been used to having bomb shelters in their homes and neighborhoods, and
they came to accept missile defenses as just another form of homeland
During the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s forces fired 42 modified
Scuds at Israel. The ensuing controversy over the effectiveness of the
Israeli and U.S. Patriot units that were hastily activated and deployed
in response taught both America and Israel some valuable lessons.
one, education and preparation count. The Israeli Patriot crews were
barely halfway through their training when the crisis broke out. Neither
Israel nor the U.S. Army had enough experience with these weapons to
understand how to effectively integrate them into a large-scale
defensive scheme. ….
The U.S. Patriot units did not arrive in Israel until
the war was already underway, and their improvised deployment has
generally been regarded as a failure.
Another problem was that space-based sensors on America’s Defense
Support Program early-warning satellites, which provided critical alerts
every time the Iraqis launched a Scud, were not directly hooked into
Israel’s air-defense system.
The satellites were designed to give early
warning of a Soviet nuclear strike, and their ability to detect Iraqi
missile launches was an unplanned side benefit. The Israelis learned the
hard way that they would need a complex, sophisticated, and extremely
fast-acting sensor system if they were to make missile defense work.
When the Second Gulf War broke out in 2003, Israel had deployed the
early version of its Arrow defense missile. It also had integrated
improved Patriot batteries and had developed an advanced
command-and-control organization to provide it with a multi-layered
national missile-defense system.
Yet when Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at northern Israel
during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, existing missile defenses did little
or nothing to stop this attack. For some unknown reason, Israel was
unwilling or unable to obtain the American Centurion short-range
missile-defense system (based on the U.S. Navy’s Phalanx anti-missile
gun). Additionally, the proposed Nautilus chemical-laser system was seen
by experts as both too expensive and too easily overwhelmed, since it
could only fire seven or eight shots before it needed to be refueled.
Meanwhile, the Israeli defense firm Rafael was developing the concept
that would lead to Iron Dome. It would be based on Israel’s
longstanding expertise in radars and especially on the AESA (Active
Electronically Scanned Array) type radar. This technology uses dozens of
small transmit–receive modules to scan for targets. It does not need
any sort of mechanical sweeping apparatus, and its power output can be
easily adjusted to concentrate on any given part of the sky.
first developed such radars as replacements for the older systems that
equipped its F-15s and F-16s.
Iron Dome uses a Multi Mode Radar (MMR) to detect and track enemy
rockets. If the rockets are going to land in an uninhabited zone, the
system does nothing; if the projectile is going to hit a neighborhood or
an area that has been designated as “protected” it will launch one or
sometimes two “Tamir” interceptor missiles in order to destroy the
Its rate of success, which the IDF claims is in the 85 to 90 percent
range has been challenged by, among others, Theodore Postol of MIT, a
longstanding, hardcore opponent of U.S. missile defense. …
The details of
the system’s effectiveness are closely held, but in its performance
against the improved “Grad” and other rockets that Hamas has been using,
the results speak for themselves.
The system is by no means perfect. When a rocket is hit, it does not
disintegrate into nothingness. Debris from both the missile and the
rocket fall to Earth and this debris can sometimes do damage, but this
is minimal compared to the damage a live warhead would do.
Back in 2012 I wrote a piece
for the Gatestone Institute making the argument that the economics of
Iron Dome are not as bad for Israel as some people claim. Since then,
the price of the Tamir interceptor missiles has probably gone down
thanks to improved manufacturing techniques and the larger quantity of
weapons being built.
Three points about the system are significant for Americans. First,
while the U.S. has been financing a great deal of Iron Dome’s
development and manufacturing, our military seems reluctant to take
advantage of the weapon’s availability. Second, the system is
continuously being improved; as with every military system there is a
constant need to update the hardware and software, and, thanks to Hamas,
the Israelis have a great deal of live-fire data on which to base their
The third, not always evident, point is that there is a human
element in the operation of Iron Dome: Some crews are better than
others, and training and experience count. The technology by itself can
only go so far. American missile-defense crews get little, if any,
live-fire training. Simulators have their limits. In light of this, the
U.S. military should rethink the way it trains its missile-defense
According to recent reports, Israel now has at least nine Iron Dome
units in operation. The IDF has said in the past that they need a total
of 13 to 15 units to cover the whole country. As production for Israel
winds down, the U.S. would be wise to consider buying a few units of its
own for use in South Korea and in places like Bagram Air Force Base in
Afghanistan. After all, the Taliban often use rockets similar to those
used by Hamas. We should expect that future enemies will use similar
weapons against similar targets. If an Iron Dome were to prevent the
destruction of a single U.S. C-17 transport plane, it would pay for
itself several times over.
The U.S. is already scheduled to begin producing components for Iron
Dome, and there is no reason why it could not manufacture an
increasingly large part of the system. Rockets such as the Grad have
been an important part of the arsenal of insurgents in low-intensity
conflict, and are also an important weapon in more conventional warfare.
As time goes on, Iron Dome or weapons systems like it will be
integrated into the arsenals of all the major powers.