With hundreds of rockets raining down from Gaza, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has saved an untold number of lives thanks to Israeli technological ingenuity and U.S. support.
According to the latest figures by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), since Operation Pillar of Defense began Nov. 14, the Iron Dome system has intercepted almost 300 rockets, with Israel Hayom reporting that the system has had an 85 percent interception success rate.
“The system works incredibly well, even beyond our expectations,” said David Schechter, a top official at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Israeli defense company that designed and manufactures the system.
One of the keys to success for the Iron Dome system is that it isn’t designed to shoot down every rocket, but only those that threaten civilian areas.
“They didn’t design a system that would shoot down everything,” Jeff White, a military analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Bloomberg News. “They designed a system that would shoot down threat rockets and it works pretty good.”
The Iron Dome provides city-sized coverage against rockets with ranges between 5-70 km using its highly advanced radar system. The first Iron Dome battery was deployed outside of Beersheba in March 2011. Currently there are five batteries deployed, with the most recent being deployed two months ahead of schedule on Nov. 17 to protect Tel Aviv. Five more batteries will be deployed in the upcoming years.
The Iron Dome system does not come without steep financial costs, especially in comparison to Hamas’s crude rockets. Each battery costs $100 million and each interceptor missile costs $50,000. By contrast, the cost to the Israeli economy of each civilian fatality is estimated to be $1,200,000.
While initially funded by Israel, the U.S. has provided most of the funding for additional batteries. Since 2010, the Obama administration and Congress have provided $205 million with an additional $70 million on its way.
According to a White House press release, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Barack Obama Nov. 16 and expressed “deep appreciation” for U.S. investment in the system.
The Iron Dome is part of a larger Israeli missile defense system. Israel’s other systems include the upcoming David’s Sling, designed for medium range rockets and missiles, and the Arrow, designed to intercept longer-range missiles such as from Iran.