Iron Dome Shoots Down Some Rockets, But At What Cost?

Ha’aretz reports that Iron Dome missiles have shot down eight rockets fired from Gaza, the most recent on Saturday, 9 April, 2011. Israeli forces claimed that 38 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Saturday. Apparently 70 were fired in the whole exhange.

It would appear that the rockets targeted are ‘Grad’ rockets fired at the town of Ashkelon since Iron Dome only works if it has a long lead time.

Iron Dome has been criticised for not being capable of responding to the threat of rockets because it isn’t quick enough to intercept rockets fired from nearby. Also, each Iron Dome missile costs many times the price of a rocket, so the cost of Iron Dome is very high. (BBC reports that each Iron Dome missile costs $70,000. Ynet reports that two missiles were fired to make the successful interception). In the recent exchange the cost could have been been about $1,120,000 and the rate of interception about 10%. That’s if eight rockets were intercepted as per the Ha’aretz article. Other sources only mention one rocket intercepted, which is a success rate of less than 2%.

In this light, it is possible to suggest that Iron Dome has been deployed primarily as a public relations gesture to Israeli residents, because it unrealistic to believe that the Israeli military would or could shoot down more than a small percentage of rockets. This was apparent from early in the project, yet the Israeli government continued to say that it could protect the residents of Sderot with this programme. In reality they are only able to protect further away communities like Ashkelon.

Clearly the cost of the programme is so high and the capability so limited that Israeli military cannot realistically protect the residents of Southern Israel from rocket attacks. Israelis have been sold a bill of goods and led to believe that there could be such a thing as an ‘Iron Dome’ over them.

Meanwhile an arms company has benefited from a very large contract, and the government has minimised pressure from residents.

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