How did Iron Dome perform over course of Gaza clash?

 
Iron Dome defence missiles

Both sides in the Gaza fighting are turning their minds to digesting the lessons of this short, sharp, campaign. For the Israeli government, anxious to dismiss the impression that it has not been humiliated by Hamas, much emphasis is being placed on the success of its Iron Dome defence system.

According to figures released by the Israeli defence ministry these new anti-missile batteries opened up 573 times, knocking down 421 out of 1,506 missiles fired from Gaza.

Some have even speculated that the success of the missile has mitigated the fact that Hamas or Hezbollah can now hit Israel's most important population and economic centres, a factor that cannot be overlooked in looking forward to the possible consequences of a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Let us deal with the upside for the Israelis first. The fact that Iron Dome was only used against just over one third of the projectiles fired is a measure of its advanced fire control computers rather than its limitations. By tracing the trajectory of the Palestinian missile within the first few seconds of its flight, the system could calculate whether or not it was heading for a populated area and therefore whether the firing of a defensive interceptor missile was necessary.

Calculating the firing solutions so quickly on multiple projectiles heading your way is indeed impressive. An unnamed US air defence officer quoted by the New York Times argues, "this discrimination is a very important part of all missile defence systems… this clearly has been a validation of the Iron Dome system's capability".

Luckily for the Israelis, most of the missiles fired at them were heading for the barren Negev desert or hillsides within the (Palestinian) West Bank. They say that 875 of them, more than half of the total fired, landed in uninhabited areas.

When it comes to the ability to hit the many Palestinian firing points, clearly very difficult targets since they are often nestling against homes, schools, or mosques, the capability demonstrated by the Israeli Defence Forces has however been less impressive.

Throughout the brief conflict Israeli experts such as Brigadier General Michael Herzog, who Newsnight interviewed earlier this week, said that the rate of missile firings had lessened significantly as their strikes against the Palestinians went on, and indeed the statistics released during the conflict by the defence ministry in Tel Aviv suggested that this was indeed the case.

However the figures that have now emerged hardly support this view. The numbers fired on each day of the conflict were: 75 on the first; then 316 on the second; then 228; 237; 156; 143; 221 on the last full day; and 130 on the day the ceasefire was agreed. The figure of 221 near the end is significant in this regard.

While there have been claims of "massive damage" to the estimated stockpile of 10,000 Hamas missiles, the organisation itself - unsurprisingly - maintains that it still retains substantial stocks, including of longer range weapons, that had been hidden on the assumption that the conflict might last weeks.

Airstrikes were evidently patchy in their results, as they were in the 2006 Lebanon conflict or the 2008-9 campaign against Hamas.

Where does all of this leave the calculation of missile defence and how effective it can be? Certainly the apparent success of Iron Dome has changed the calculus for the future. More batteries will be deployed, and there will be further refinements to its software.

However Hamas and Hezbollah can hardly be expected to stand still either. If they improve their launch accuracy to the point that the majority rather than minority of their missiles are on target, would Iron Dome be able to cope?

Luck comes into this too, and if Hamas had scored a hit resulting in a major loss of life, the sense of insecurity felt by Israelis might have been much more profound.

Missile defence may be able to play a significant part in blunting this threat. But the fact that peace process rejectionists such as Hamas and Hezbollah now have such extensive means of hitting Israeli cities is the more important strategic development.

 
Mark Urban, Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight Article written by Mark Urban Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, BBC Newsnight

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    This article conveniently misses out the fact that a vast number of rockets fired by the terrorist Hamas organisation actually landed within the Gaza Strip itself. Some of the Palestinian casualties were attributed to these stray missiles falling on the local population within Gaza.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    16. Little_Old_Me. If the post is your only claim, it proves that the situation is dire to a Gaza civilian. You, among many others, have been misled. Gaza is indeed a dense city but it resides within Gaza strip, where land is mostly inhabitant and the Israeli army is not present. You should ask why shelters are being blocked by Hamas the minute they are firing missiles towards Israel.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    14.George Plankton - ".....If placing missiles and building missile silos near schools and mosques is considered to be legit....."


    Clearly you either know nothing whatsoever about how small & densely populated Gaza is, or you do know that and are being deliberately mendacious.....

    Where would have them place them?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

     
    "But the fact that peace process rejectionists such as Hamas and Hezbollah now have such extensive means of hitting Israeli cities is the more important strategic development."

    I'm so glad that someone at the BBC recognises who the peace process rejectionists are.

    Thank you, Mark Urban!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    The Iron Dome system is a great success both on security and mental help. Israel is doing the best it can in protecting civilians. On the other hand, you should ask what efforts Hamas is taking in order to protect its own civilians. If placing missiles and building missile silos near schools and mosques is considered to be legit, why should Israel avoid Hamas terrorists hiding between civilians?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    I noticed several Hamas' missiles were getting through. Where they did not get through, there was massive ground debris to be cleared. Also noticed that Netanyahu specified more help required from US (on the iron dome) - more batteries, more refinements. From the beginning, I felt Israel wanted a testing ground for the Iron Dome. There was Hamas - a willing partner after targeted assassination.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    Cowardice reigns at the BBC.

    Israeli War Crimes: “Surgical Strikes” against Palestinian Children
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/israeli-war-crimes-surgical-strikes-against-palestinian-children/5312787

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    .Ealts - ".......I can guarantee that's the unanimous consensus here......"


    Amungst your friends I don't doubt it, but the reason your friends are your friends is that you generally agree on most things.....

    ....try asking outside your circle & you will not find such unified agreement......

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 10.

    Wow! The author and the reader comments to this article are so ignorant that I had to go through the trouble and register to reply. I live in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome was our "Rock Star Hero." I can guarantee that's the unanimous consensus here. Also, Mark Urban does nothing to combat the claim that the BBC isn't woefully biased against Israel by saying it was 'humiliated.' Completely wrong.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 9.

    Some thoughts that occur to me are that the long term outlook for Israel is not good. Each year the arabs get stronger and Israel is about as strong as they can get. The only solution is a two state solution.. As far as Iron dome goes each iron dome rocket costs about $25,000 but each Hamas rocket about 800 dollars. Israel spent about $14.3 million and Hamas spent $1.2 Million not a good trend.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    Dawntreader22. Your correct. Imagine the metric tonnage of over 10,000 yet unfired missiles expressed in other materials like necessities to produce and export goods labeled Proudly made in Palestine. Sadly No.
    Locked into centuries old desert dogma of hate and expressed in the festering brutal Hamass which exists only to enact it's founding charter, violent obliteration of Israel = Self Dooming

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    Ben, Israel didn't occupy any of the West Bank prior to 1967, yet it was still attacked. Do you believe if the settlers left there would be peace? Of course there wouldn't - both major Palestinian parties have as their goal the annihilation of Israel.
    Fatah Constitution Art. 12: "Complete.. eradication of Zionist... existence. "
    Hamas Charter "Israel will exist.. until Islam will obliterate it"

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 6.

    how about just stop building settlements in the west bank, and leaving? then there'd be no reason for the palestinians to fire rockets to try to convince their occupiers to leave.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 5.

    All war is deception - Sun Tsu. The effectiveness of the Iron Dome system cannot be judged at this moment. Israel wants its people to think the rockets that have been falling on them are not real; but unfortunately, they have been. During the Gulf War, the Patriot System was touted as being very successful, but upon later study they were found to have been almost useless.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    How good is one in 3 and half hits ie for every one destroyed 3 to 4 get threw ??

    A systems upgrade is needed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    I suggest that the next version of Iron Dome sends two missiles. One to intercept the rocket, and another one to hit the location where the incoming rocket was fired from. And maybe the version after that, make the intercepting rockets clamp on to the incoming rocket and turn it around to go back where it came from. This way the terrorists would be firing randomly at themselves each time they fire

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 2.

    You know, the Palestinians in Gaza cry about the blockades and it having horrible economic consequences. Well, it seems to me that the blockade is leaking like a sieve if they can get all of those rockets in. They should be able to smuggle in anything or anyone they want if they can smuggle in rockets.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1.

    If hamas does this again, there will be a ground invasion of Gaza. Not egypts new pharaoh, not the US, not anyone. Full support for israel, their military should open a paypal so we can donate. As for Iron Dome, it worked well, although I still wonder how many people are injured by the falling debris from the interceptor and its' target.

 

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