Posts Tagged Iron Dome
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.
Israel’s Iron Dome defense system appears to be unable to do what it was intended to do. As recently as July, its developer Raphael Systems, was insisting that Iron dome could be used to protect boder settlements from rocket attacks.
Early critics of the systems have pointed out that if the purpose of Iron Dome was to protect the border communities like Sderot, the system could not work because the response time exceeded the time that it takes a rocket to reach Sderot from Gaza.
Implementation of the system has been delayed because officials claim it is difficult to take such a complicated system and turn it into a usable weapon. In fact, the system has been placed in storage until 2011. While the ineffectiveness of the system has always been denied, the decision recently to place the system in storage at an Israeli Air Force base in central Israel, is a tacit admission that the system is useless for protecting Sderot, although another story has been concocted.
Could this be a massive waste of money for American taxpayers, who funded Iron Dome, at a time when the US economy was in trouble, and budget deficits skyrocketing? In May, Barack Obama had asked both houses to approve $205 additional millions for the Iron Dome project, which was passed.
Ultimately the US funding will provide nine Iron Dome systems for Israel, but it is isn’t clear that these would provide any value whatsoever. Jonathan Cook, writing in CounterPunch, has pointed out that it would cost $1 billion to produce 20 batteries of Iron Dome missiles, and that even that number of batteries would not protect many key targets.
While the program was sold to the Israeli and American publics as a way to protect border populations from rocket attacks, the military is now claiming that it is a higher priority to protect air bases from rocket attack, some thing that hasn’t been a problem in the past.This seems to be sidestepping the original desire to protect border communities, and is probably a way to avoid admitting that the system costing hundreds of millions, doesn’t work as intended.
In fact, cost is the big issue. The Strategy Page has pointed out that they are much too expensive to use against Quassam rockets, and numerically too few to intercept an enduring attack of cheap Quassam rockets. Retired Israeli Hanna has pointed out that Iron Dome is only useful for defending high value targets and could quickly be overwhelmed by a concentrated attack of many missiles.
Raphael, the producer of the Iron Dome technology, is spinning off the technology to produce other missile systems like the ‘Iron Flame’ surface to surface missile which appears to be a military offensive weapon, rather than being intended for defence.
In Israel, like many countries with very large arms industries, there is a close relationship between the government, the defense department and the industry, with the former often acting to promote the interests of the private arms industry.
Politically it was very important in the last few years for the Israeli government to ‘protect’ the residents of Sderot, in Israeli territory near the Gaza strip, who were being attacked by Qassam rockets fired from Gaza.
Residents of Sderot were promised a ‘missile defense shield’ that would protect them from Qassam rockets and money was awarded to Rafael Advanced Defence Systems to build one. Indeed a working system was completed in just two and a half years. However the IDF purchased only one system, at a cost of $50 million, then promptly put it into storage in the north of the country saying that it would be used to protect the frontier with Lebanon. It did not announce plans to purchase additional batteries.
Two theories have been advanced for this abrupt change of policy.
First, it has been pointed out that the Iron Dome system supplied by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems could not possibly defend Sderot from Qassam rockets fired from Gaza because the time it takes for a rocket to arrive in Sderot is far to short to allow the Iron Dome system to be activated. Iron Dome would only work where the lead times are greater, perhaps on the front with Lebanon.(It has also been pointed out that Israel could have purchased ‘off the shelf’ defence systems from the US, which used lasers and therefore had much shorter activation times, and were cheaper.
Second, it has been suggested that the plan to provide a ‘shield’ for Sderot was simply an excuse to commence a weapons development programme, with the real goal to sell the system to an offshore client, specifically Singapore. It was recently announced that Singapore would buy xx units of the system.
(Additional information from article by Lars Olberg, in Missile Monitor).
So were the citizens of Sderot betrayed by their government, who used their situation to justify a weapons development system that could not possibly benefit them?
Did Singapore believe that Israel was building a workable system for itself, when in reality the system is of little use for Israel and is more expensive than better alternatives?
Haaretz has recently reported that Israeli companies have sold Singapore missile defense shield technology, the ‘Iron Dome’. Haaretz reported that ‘Intelligence Online’ reported that Rafael Advanced Defense Systems had received financing for development of the Iron Dome technology in return for receiving several Iron Dome systems to deploy in Singapore. It reportedly cost $250 million to develop.
Israel and Singapore have long standing military links after Singapore asked Israel for help in developing its army after the IDF model, which was done, in the 1960’s.
As a result, Singapore has made many purchases of military equipment and technology from Israeli companies, including Hermes 450 drones from Elbit Systems, Barak surface to air missiles from IAI, naval drones from Rafael, fighter jet upgrading by an unnamed company.
Haaretz announced in January, 2010, that Iron Dome had been successfully tested and that one system was deployed. The article speculated about when additional systems would be purchased and estimated that 20 systems would required at a cost of $50 million each, or $1 billion.
There was speculation however that the Iron Dome project was developed entirely for Singapore, rather than as an offshoot of an Israeli defense project. Apparently much cheaper missile defense technology is available from an American company, the Vulcan Phalanx/Centurion cannon system supplied by Raytheon.
Was this is an issue because Israeli government financial resources were used in the development of the product, which was ultimately unneeded by the IDF? Only one system has been purchased, and there is no budget for buying more.
Or it may just be an illustration of how the IDF, government, and the Israeli arms companies work together, often in secrecy, to maximise Israeli arms sales.