15 things you didn’t know about the Iron Dome

Israel’s anti-missile defense system has a 90 percent success rate. Betcha didn’t know there are toy car parts behind its features.

An Iron Dome missile battery near Tel Aviv. Photo by Flash90

An Iron Dome missile battery near Tel Aviv. Photo by Flash90

The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system is without a doubt the champion of Israel’s current conflict with Gaza. Without it, the hundreds of missiles fired by Hamas into Israel day after day would have likely caused many deaths, and severe damage.

Regular people and security experts alike all want to know more about this box-like contraption that is helping keep the Israeli population safe from the barrage of rockets.

Here are 15 facts you may not know about the Iron Dome system:

1. Iron Dome is the world’s only dual mission system that provides an effective defense solution for countering rockets, artillery and mortars as well as aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and PGMs. It can detect and intercept rockets and artillery shells headed for population centers within a 43.4-mile (70-kilometer) range.

2. A toy car sold by Toys R Us inspired developers in building the Iron Dome. One of the leading developers recently told Hayadan , the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s magazine, that due to schedule and budget constraints, some of the missile components were taken from a toy car he had bought for his son at a local Toys R Us store.

3. The Iron Dome system was designed to be operated easily by an average woman soldier 160 centimeters in height and 48 kilograms in weight, according to Hayadan.

4. Iron Dome can handle multiple threats simultaneously and efficiently. The system only intercepts an incoming rocket if it is deemed a critical threat. A unique interceptor with a special warhead detonates any target in the air within seconds.

5. The cost of launching a missile from the Iron Dome at a threatening rocket has been reported to cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000. The rockets fired by terror groups at Israel are estimated to cost between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

An Iron Dome defense system missile intercepts a rocket fired at Jerusalem from Gaza last Thursday. Photo by Flash90.

An Iron Dome defense system missile intercepts a rocket fired at Jerusalem from Gaza last Thursday. Photo by Flash90.

6. It took less than four years to develop the Iron Dome system from an idea to the drawing board to combat readiness. In 2007, a year after the Second Lebanon War, then Defense Minister Amir Peretz chose the Iron Dome to be developed as Israel’s defensive answer. In March 2011, the Iron Dome was declared operational. In April that year, the advanced missile interception system successfully shot down its first Grad rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip at Israel.

7. When the Iron Dome system was chosen to be developed into Israel’s defensive solution against short-range rockets, many critics predicted it would never work. One of the project leaders said: “We knew that eventually our critics would get our response, which came in April when the first operational deployment destroyed eight out of eight rockets aimed at Ashkelon and Beersheba.” Indeed, the strange-looking battery contraption was hailed as the hero of Operation Pillar of Defense. Today, operators of the system report a best-in-the-world 90 percent success rate.

8. Israeli contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israeli company mPrest Systems designed and programmed the core of the Iron Dome management system.

9. Iron Dome operates in all weather conditions, including low clouds, rain, dust storms or fog.

10. Aesthetics were important to the designers and developers of the system. One developer told Hayadan: “I wanted the battery system to look super-modern and threatening, because it was obvious that within an hour of its use it would be featured on the likes of CNN and Al-Jazeera.”

A missile from the Iron Dome is fired in response to rocket attack from Gaza. Photo by Flash90.

A missile from the Iron Dome is fired in response to rocket attack from Gaza. Photo by Flash90.

11. During Iron Dome’s deployment, the IDF realized that it is also effective against aircraft up to an altitude of 32,800 feet (10,000 meters), according to a report by the Hebrew-language Flightglobal magazine.

12. Iron Dome is jointly funded by Israel and the US. Israel provided initial funding and development, which allowed for the deployment of the first two Iron Dome systems. In 2010, the US government contributed $205 million toward its development. In 2011, Haaretz published a report stating that Israel would invest $1 billion in Iron Dome batteries. In 2012, the American government approved another $70 million package for further R&D. In 2014, the US Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee agreed to provide $351 million for Israel to secure the Iron Dome system.

13. Iron Dome is the first of a planned three-part defense system – Iron Dome, Magic Wand, Arrow — that could be operational by the end of the year, according to Rafael. Magic Wand is designed to intercept projectiles with ranges between 70 kilometers (45 miles) and 300 kilometers (180 miles), like the large arsenal of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon. The Arrow system is for longer-range threats from Iran. The three components will complete what Israel calls its “multilayer missile defense.”

14. The developers of Iron Dome — from Rafael and the Ministry of Defense Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure – won the prestigious 2012 Israel Defense Prize for their technological breakthroughs in developing the groundbreaking system.

15. Two young Israeli innovators run Facebook and Twitter accounts following the Iron Dome’s successes.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.
  • Nestor Pistor

    Who cares? Israel just finished expending tens of millions of dollars in armaments and seems poised to accept a ceasefire placing it exactly where it was before the operation. If Iron Dome had NOT existed, Israel would have been forced to finish the job once and for all. Iron Dome paradoxically has made Israel a weak power and its leaders pathetic. How tragic!

    • goldenrog

      How tragic that all Israel wants is peace? What are you, bloodthirsty?

      • Nestor Pistor

        Right! I’m bloodthirsty. I’m bloodthirsty for wanting Israel to put an end to Gaza terrorism once and for all so that its citizens will experience peace once and for all and not a bloody war every 2-3 years to do the same thing all over again. What was that definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Perhaps you are the bloodthirsty one for wishing this on Israelis time and time again!

        • BethesdaDog

          You wrote your comment seven days ago. At this point, it seems that the cabinet has stood strong in the face of the very likely arm twisting by Kerry. More than the U.S., it seems that Israel has Egypt on its side, as well as Saudi Arabia, the two most important Arab countries. I hope the cabinet continues to hang tough, until it finishes the job, whatever that means. I hope that means that all the tunnels are destroyed and that Hamas will never be able to threaten Israel again. In the meantime, Iron Dome has proven its worth and has no doubt saved many lives.

    • mb

      You must be joking, have you just awakened from a coma or something?

    • Cedric TheGoose Pierce

      no.

  • gornisht

    Bravo, Israel!!

  • Joyce Oxfeld

    Toys can be to greater usage than I ever thought.

  • http://Sott.net/ Joe Quinn

    Try and find an image of an “iron dome” missile intercepting a “palestinian rocket” that shows TWO trails in the sky. There are none. “Iron dome” is a fantasy. Palestinians have no effective rockets to fire at Israel. The Israeli government wants to create that image. So they send up ‘Iron dome’ missiles at…well….nothing much at all. Sirens go off, Israelis run scared, that’s the point. Keep them afraid.

    • NickyBlackburn

      Joe, that’s the most hilarious comment I’ve ever seen on our site. Thank-you for making me laugh. After 14 days of constant bombardment from Gaza, watching Hamas missiles struck down one after another in the sky above my head by rockets from the Iron Dome, you managed to make me smile.

      • http://Sott.net/ Joe Quinn

        Maybe you need to reconsider your blind beliefs.

        http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.606034

        • BethesdaDog

          Mr. Quinn–
          I can’t read the entire article, since I don’t subscribe to Haaretz, and most of the article is behind a paywall. I’m well aware of this controversy, though. It involves a professor at MIT, a Dr. Postol, and one of his colleagues. There have been a recent article and a flurry of comments in the MIT Technology Review over this controversy. While I respect Dr. Postol’s opinion, and defer to him as an engineer and scientist, which I’m not, but his criticisms have been sharply challenged by quite a few others. Dr. Postol was the primary critic of the Patriot system, which he apparently demonstrated was very overrated during the 1st Gulf War. I’m not so sure how good Dr. Postol’s analysis is of Iron Dome. He has utilized almost exclusively video evidence, often, I believe, from youtube videos. He claims that his analysis of the videos, and his contention that Iron Dome can only be successful if it intercepts an enemy rocket head on, suggest that ID is hitting two many incoming rockets from the wrong angle, and not detonating them. Some weeks ago I read a very persuasive rebuttal to Dr. Postol on another website. It seemed to strongly refute Dr. Postol with a number of arguments. It was written by a prior head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization. That rebuttal was addressed to Dr. Postol’s earlier criticism based upon the prior Gaza conflict. I believe his arguments now are essentially along the same lines. I find it hard to believe that the Israeli military has been able to con its population, the American government, and the whole world, with a hoax of the proportions that Dr. Postol would suggest is the case. I also don’t believe the Israeli military and the government would be content to invest billions in a program that is not working to a very high degree. Dr. Postol said he would post more arguments at the Technology Review, so I will continue to read that site and some of the others. (The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists had an article adopting Dr. Postol’s critique, but it seemed like it was slanted more toward a particular political and ideological point of view, so it was not of much value.)

          if I can find that rebuttal of a year or so ago to Dr. Postol I will post a link. In the meantime, I don’t find the Haaretz to be the last word–even though i can’t really read it. I consider the source, a substantially left of center, anti-government newspaper. There was another Israeli critic, another journalist or academic, but I believe he died in a road accident not too long ago. Again, I would be surprised if there were not some critics, but I don’t believe they are right.

        • BethesdaDog

          I tried posting a lengthy article about the controversy that is the subject, I guess, of the Haaretz article. (It didn’t seem to post here, I guess probably because it was so lengthy.) I’ll try to make it shorter. I’m quite familiar with the controversy involving Theodore Postol of MIT and Richard Lloyd, both critics of Iron Dome. It has been the topic of ongoing discussion in the MIT Technology Review. Reuven Pedatzur, the military analyst from Haaretz also questioned the program. He died in a road accident in April. The strongest rebuttal is the one from Uzi Rubin, first head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization. No doubt, the controversy will continue to rage, but I doubt that the Israeli military could successfully con its government, its people who see the successes first hand, and the entire world. I don’t think Congress would be willing to come up with some funding if it felt it wasn’t an effective system. (I know they’ve funded some bad systems, but I don’t believe they haven’t done their homework on this.) I’ll follow this controversy on an ongoing basis. Postol has promised to provide an updated response to his critics in the Technology Review. Here’s Rubin’s earlier rebuttal to Postol:

          http://www.middleeast-armscontrol.com/2013/05/08/battle-over-iron-dome/

          I’m going to believe, for now, that it is working and is highly successful.

          • Nestor Pistor

            But you conspiracy suckers still believe the Americans landed on the moon. How could they? They would have sunk into green cheese.

    • Nestor Pistor

      Joey, I agree. The Jews also caused Hurricane Katrina, didn’t ya know?

  • Thomas Koshy

    Well done Israel,the world needs more defense mechanisms like this