The US Army received the first Iron Dome battery in September 2020.
Iron Dome is an effective mobile, truck-towed, multi-mission air defense system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The system was developed to counter very short range rocket and 155mm artillery shell threats with ranges up to 70 km. It can be used in all weather conditions including fog, dust storm, low cloud and rain.
The all-weather air defense system protects the population and critical assets and can be strategically placed to reduce collateral damage. Iron Dome detects, analyzes and intercepts a range of incoming threats, including C-RAM, precision-guided missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and respiratory threats.
The system has so far intercepted over 2,500 incoming targets with a success rate of over 90%.
Selected by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Iron Dome provides defense against short-range missiles and rockets that pose a threat to the civilian population of Israel’s northern and southern borders.
“In July 2010, the United States House of Representatives approved $205 million in funding to accelerate the production and deployment of Iron Dome.”
The system was deployed by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in March 2011.
In November 2012, Israel installed the fifth Iron Dome battery in Gush Dan in response to rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area. The Iron Dome air defense system is being used to intercept and shoot down hundreds of rockets from Gaza as the latest round of escalations between Israel and Palestine in May 2021 engulfed the region. The violent clashes saw Hamas launch a barrage of rockets targeting Tel Aviv in Israel in response to a suspected Israeli airstrike in Gaza. The death toll in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli airstrikes stands at more than 60 people.
I-DOME is a mobile version of the system, which can be deployed on a single truck, while C-DOME is a naval version.
Background and details of the development of the Iron Dome mobile air defense system
Hezbollah rocket fire during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 led to the development of Iron Dome. Nearly 4,000 rockets, mostly of the short-range Katyusha type, were fired at Haifa and other areas of northern Israel.
Around 44 Israeli civilians were killed in the attack and around 250,000 citizens were evacuated and moved to other parts of Israel.
Between 2000 and 2008, more than 4,000 mortars and 4,000 rockets (mostly Qassams) were fired from Gaza into southern Israel. As the range of the Qassam was expanded due to the introduction of the 122mm Grad launchers, nearly one million southern Israelis entered range.
To counter rocket threats, the Israeli Ministry of Defense decided in February 2007 to develop a mobile air defense system.
The missile defense system was successfully tested in March 2009. The tests were conducted without physically intercepting a missile or rocket. In July 2009, during a Ministry of Defense test, the system successfully intercepted a number of rockets.
A new battalion was created by the IAF in August 2009 to operate the Iron Dome system. Several rocket bombardments mimicking Qassams and Katyushas were successfully intercepted in a test carried out in January 2010.
Final testing of the Iron Dome was undertaken in July 2010. The system successfully determined and intercepted only incoming missile threats, while other missiles heading into open fields were not intercepted .
Raytheon collaborated with Rafael to commercialize the Iron Dome weapon system in the United States in August 2011. Raytheon secured a $149 million contract from Rafael to supply Tamir interceptor components used in the system, in September 2014. Raytheon Rafael Area Protection Systems was formed as a new joint venture between Raytheon and Rafael in August 2020 to establish an Iron Dome production facility in the United States.
Features of the Iron Dome missile system
Iron Dome is composed of three fundamental elements, a detection and tracking radar, a combat management and weapons control system (BMC) and a missile firing unit (MFU). The radar system was developed by the Israeli defense company Elta.
The control system was built by an Israeli software company mPrest Systems, hired by Rafael.
The missile launched by the MFU from Iron Dome included Tamir interceptor missiles.
It has multiple steering fins for great maneuverability and is equipped with electro-optical sensors. The missile system has day and night and all-weather capability, rapid reaction time and salvo intercept capability. It can also adapt to rapidly changing threats and handle multiple threats at the same time.
Other Iron Dome features include a vertical launch interceptor, proximity warhead and fuse, mobile launcher, and compatibility with various radar and detection systems. The system’s special warhead allows it to blast any target in the air.
After detecting and identifying the rocket, the Iron Dome radar monitors its trajectory. Based on the radar information, the system’s BMC analyzes the threat trajectory and calculates an anticipated point of impact.
If the calculated trajectory of the incoming rocket poses a real threat, a command is executed to launch an interceptor against the threat. The incoming rocket explodes above a neutral zone.
Upgrades and other tests
The Iron Dome defense system has been upgraded to be able to simultaneously take down multiple complex threats such as rockets, unmanned aerial vehicles and salvoes of missiles. The technology upgrade was tested in a series of three tests, the last of which was conducted in southern Israel in March 2021. The Iron Dome successfully intercepted and destroyed targets that simulated existing threats and emerging. Rafael and the Israeli Ministry of Defense will deliver the upgraded version to the IAF and Israeli Navy for operational use.
Israel also conducted a series of live-fire exercises of a layered air defense system using the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow weapon systems in December 2020.
International interest in mobile air defense system
The new short-range missile defense system helps protect NATO forces positioned in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Romanian Romaero partnered with Rafael to cooperate in the production of the Iron Dome system in Romania in May 2018.
In August 2019, the US Army finalized an agreement to purchase two Iron Dome systems. Delivery of the second battery to the United States was completed in January 2021.
Azerbaijan and India have also signed agreements for the purchase of the missile system.
The Israeli government is in talks with a number of European countries to explore the potential sale of the system.
Topics in this article: