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Friday, November 23, 2012
Iron Dome: 95 Percent Interceptions in Several Months

95 Percent Interceptions in Several Months
Against the backdrop of the direct hits in Rishon LeZion and other cities,
the head of Rafael’s Air-to-Air and Air-Defense Directorate says that “we
are constantly improving the system”

Moriya Ben Yosef 22/11/2012

In the last days of operation Pillar of Defense, it seems that several
rockets succeeded in hitting settled areas, and the question that arises is
just how effective is the Iron Dome defense system, after a lengthy period
of more than several days.

“There's no concept of becoming tired in this system – this is not a person
that is working,” says Yossi Druker, head of Rafael's Air-to-Air and
Air-Defense Directorate. "We made several light modifications in the recent
period in the direction of easing things for the operators, and rarely
because of a bug discovered in the system. We obtain constant information
from the Israel Air Force about every operational event, we investigate all
of the events and draw the conclusions. We are talking of dozens and
hundreds of events, each of which is recorded in the command and control
system and transferred to us. We have already corrected various issues, and
will continue to do so in the future as well. These are very sophisticated
and reliable programs, and they are designed to operate for a period of
between 15 to 20 years.

“My projection for the future, and we must set this bar for ourselves, is to
reach an interception rate of 95% within several months.”

How much does the interception success rate depend on the operators?

“Out of the tests that we’ve done, I have not encountered an incident where
an operator mistake prevented an interception. In the past two days, I was
at two batteries in Israel's central region and the fighters of the
air-defense layout should be commended and given tremendous credit for the
work that they are doing. It should be reported that the fighters from the
IDF's air-defense layout are the ones that intercepted the launch, not that
the Iron Dome intercepted the rockets. This is in addition to all of the
involved parties that also deserve to receive full recognition, whether if
it's the head of the Iron Dome project in MAFAT and his team that accompany
and guide, the other industries involved such as Elta and mPrest, and, of
course, the people at Rafael. It is thanks to them that we have succeeded in
making the fifth system battery serviceable within 48 hours.”

The brain of the Iron Dome system, a radar developed by Elta, identifies the
departure and estimated fall location of a rocket, as well as its trajectory
while in motion, in order to provide instructions to the interceptor. The
system can also prioritize interceptions, and can deal with a missile salvo
situation. However, the system’s rate of successful interceptions stands at
approximately 87%, so there are still launches that land in built areas.

“More Iron Dome systems are needed”

“The Iron Dome system is operated according to the area’s priority, and the
Tel Aviv metropolitan is a large area,” says Uzi Rubin, former head of the
Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Homa Administration and the man who headed the
Arrow program. “I’m not sure if the launches directed at Rishon LeZion were
intercepted by the Iron Dome, or that they initially saw that they would
land in open areas.”

“The Iron Dome significantly decreases the number of impacts, but more
systems are needed, as many batteries and radars as possible and now there
is a race against time. The country reached a decision two years too late,
and it was possible to start the project back in 2005. However, it seems
that the Second Lebanon War was needed, which was when they saw what 4,000
rockets falling on populated areas looked like. Amir Peretz, then the
minister of defense, was not willing to accept ‘no’ as an answer.

“There was a Knesset report that discussed the need for acquiring 11
batteries. The Ministry of Defense says that 13 batteries are needed in the
initial stage to cover and protect the country’s skies. Why is there a need
to seek funding from the US? This is because thus far, it was not
prioritized highly enough in the defense budget. However, people are now
beginning to understand that the terms of the battle have changed, and that
it is ultimately a war of attrition of our homefront against their homefront
and infrastructure. There is no doubt that there will be an eventual change
to the budget, and it will be allocated the necessary funds. Brig. Gen.
(Res.) Herzl Bodinger, former IAF commander, defines it this way – ‘today,
going to war without defending the homefront is like going to the field of a
football match without a goalkeeper’."

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