Every conflict, even a low-intensity one like the one now between the Israeli military and the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Hamas in Gaza, highlights a weapons system that characterises the conflict and leaving its own distinct imprint – this time, the Iron Dome.
The effectiveness and neutralisation of the opponent’s threat are duly advertised with the ultimate goal of demonstrating the technological superiority of the defense industry of the country of manufacture.
But above all, it is to claim a significant piece of the global arms pie.
Washington did so during the Gulf War, when Patriot anti-aircraft missiles neutralised the Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s forces at U.S. bases, but in this case, the Israelis were against rocket-propelled grenades and rockets from Hamas.
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It was precisely this need to stop the rockets that were fired not only more frequently.
But it was especially the increasing numbers from either Gaza or the West Bank against Israeli cities that prompted the Jewish state to develop a missile defence system capable of successfully destroying low-trace aerial targets.
Exactly 10 years ago, studies led to the establishment of an “anti-aircraft umbrella” over Israel, which is made up of a series of billion-dollar weapons systems that operate on a 24-hour basis.
The “Iron Dome”, or Kippat Barzel in Hebrew, spreads over Israeli cities and is a network of radar, rocket launchers and short-range and medium-range missiles.
According to the manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, this system is equally effective against any type of aerial threat such as missiles, mortars, artillery shells, aircraft, helicopters and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
It was this last possibility of the system that initially aroused the interest of Greek officials, who, in the context of the Greek-Israeli defense cooperation, had gone to Israel about a year and a half ago.
In Israel they were informed about the effectiveness of this due to system against air threats.
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Greece, having to face an ever-increasing fleet of Turkish UAVs already operating in the Aegean and Southeast Mediterranean, is constantly looking for alternative ways to deal with them.
This is because using fighter jets and Patriot missiles is considered completely unprofitable.
It should be noted that Turkey is one of the largest UAV manufacturers in the world, having already exploited their advantages both on the internal front against the Kurds and in the recent conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
At the same time, however, another version of this system, which is also being considered by the Greek side, is related to the creation of small “Iron Domes” over almost every Aegean island.
The ‘Iron Dome’ could be used to protect the Greek islands from rocket attacks or artillery fire coming from Asia Minor in the event of a Greek-Turkish conflict.
The capabilities of the weapon are such that they ensure that even short-range missiles could be intercepted before they reach their target, thus protecting Greek military bases and civilians.
At the same time, because the “Iron Dome” has the advantage of detecting the origin of the threat with its radar, we could then target the location of the threat.
Pentagon sources say the system will essentially be a bridge between Greek long-range anti-aircraft weapons, such as the Patriot and S-300 missiles.
The Iron Dome, once acquired, will mainly fill the gap of Hawk missiles, which have a maximum range of 110 km.
These missiles are nearing the end of their operational life, so they will soon have to be replaced.
It should be noted that, according to military analysts, the cost of shooting down an air target through the “Iron Dome” system amounts to about $100,000.
Something similar to a Patriot missile – owned by the US – costs many times more.
The Tamir rocket, which is also being built by Rafael and launched by the Iron Dome, is estimated to cost $40,000, with the launcher costing a total of $50 million.
“Clouds” in the sky
The downing of a rocket or rocket by the “Iron Dome” almost always leaves behind a small, sparse cloud of smoke.
The sky of Israel in the last days is full of such clouds, as it is estimated that Hamas has launched more than 2,500 rockets and missiles against Israeli targets.
The Iron Dome, although it seems to endure, cannot prevent all attacks.
Using 3D AESA radar, the Iron Dome has, according to its manufacturers, the ability to simultaneously trap 1,100 targets and a range of between 4 and 70 kilometers.
When a missile is detected, the radar monitors its course and speed and transmits the data to the fire control system through which the possible point of impact is determined.
Any artillery is considered capable of protecting an urban area of up to 150 square kilometers.
About a hundred people (pilots, technicians and security personnel) staff each artillery, which usually consists of one radar unit and three launchers, with each launcher containing 20 interceptor missiles.
It is estimated that the Israeli Army has deployed eight such artillery pieces, which either operate automatically, ie the radar locks the target and commands the launch of the missile, or mechanically, allowing the pilot to press the missile trigger button.
The Iron Dome has already been acquired by the U.S. and the Singapore Armed Forces, and is in the process of being upgraded, as both Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon are constantly expanding their arsenal with new and faster missiles.
After almost five years of research following the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War, in April 2011, the Iron Dome was officially tested by intercepting for the first time a rocket launched against Birsiba.
Since then, the system has been an integral part of Israel’s air defenses.
George Dionysopoulos is a correspondent for Proto Thema.