The Israeli military today deployed the “Iron Dome” missile defense shield in Beersheva (in Israel’s Negev Desert) today.
It will use missiles to shoot down incoming missiles…
UPDATE: Nine days later, on 4 April, the IDF announced it was deplo yinga second Iron Dome battery, to protect the Israeli coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” proposal? Reagan apparently had an oversimplified yet exaggerated understanding of a space-based proposal involving satellites to shoot down large intercontinental missiles (or other threats) during the cold war. His proposal was, at the time, a game-changer. But, it lead to China’s fears about “Space War” — fears that the U.S. still refuses to address.
[Today, no doubt by purest coincidence, Israel and Russia signed a space cooperation agreement in Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem — just a few days after Netanyahu himself made a brief visit to Russia. A media statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office said that “Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkovitz. Russian Ambassador to Israel Pyotr Stegny, the directors of the respective space agencies, and space experts from both countries also attended the signing. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the combination of Russia’s developed industry and Israel’s developed, focused and sophisticated industry would provide major benefits to both countries, and added that today’s agreement reflects the impressive development in bilateral relations”. The agreement is to enhance “cooperation between the Israeli and Russian space agencies in the fields of space research, observation, navigation, medicine and biology in space, research in advanced materials and launchings”.]
UPDATE: On Thursday 31 March, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the deployment was “part of an operational experiment that will last for the next several weeks”. According to a report in Haaretz, here, “The defense minister warned that ‘this is not a 100 percent solution, and we will not be able to deploy it [Iron Dome] in all the necessary locations by tomorrow’. He continued, saying ‘it will take several years and significant expense to prepare ourselves, but it is our intent to do everything necessary to become operational”. According to Haaretz, the defense minister said he expected that “in the future a superior missile defense system will be put in place, including Magic Wand, the interception system for medium-range missiles and rockets, as well as the Arrow and Arrow II, which are interceptor missiles”.
Haaretz reported today here that “The IDF said the system should begin operating on Sunday afternoon, but has described the step as an ‘operational experiment’, saying the deployment of the Iron Dome and beginning its actual use will take some time … The Israeli-developed system uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and is supposed to shoot them down within seconds of their launch. Security officials said the new barrage of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and public pressure had led the military to deploy the system, which is still being fine-tuned. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss operational decisions”.
Haaretz noted that “The components of the battery – which include launchers, a radar, the control system and monitor – were each placed a few kilometers from one another on desert terrain, as soldiers from the Israel Air Force air defense unit began configuring the system”
The Haaretz article referred to it as a “200 million dollar system” — but it is probably more. The U.S. paid for a substantial part. UPDATE: the US paid $205 million dollars in addition to its annual $3 billion contribution to Israel’s defensive superiority. The Iron Dome system cost quite a bit more, and each of the intercept missiles reportedly costs the IDF some $50,000.
See CNN here — this report also suggests that Israel will eventually have a total of ten Iron Shield batteries. This article also notes that “The Obama administration is helping Israel enhance its security systems, in part, to address Israeli fears that the establishment of a Palestinian state would create a safe launching pad for rocket attacks”.
For the U.S., it offers field-testing of some important air-borne intercept theories. It must also have been thought — at least in part — to be an effective argument against the need for retaliation like Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009), which killed some 1,300 Palestinians, wounded at least 5,000, and terrified 1.5 million people, most of whom were not at all involved in shooting rockets, missiles and mortars over the “border” to Israeli peripheral communities.
It was supposed to be ready in late 2010.
It was not clear why the Iron Dome system was deployed first in Beersheva — except perhaps because Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor (and, reportedly, its “ambiguous” nuclear weapons program) is nearby.
The Iron Dome system is also designed to protect Israel’s own military bases, officials indicated Sunday.
Two grad missiles fired from Gaza last week landed in or near Beersheva, which to the east of Gaza, in the Negev Desert.
The Mediterranean coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod have also been targetted by projectile fire from Gaza — and hit far more times.
Schools in all three cities were closed last Thursday after the intensification of fire from Gaza, but they reopened today.
Also on Sunday, Gaza military factions offered an end to firing if Israel ends its punishing attacks on Gaza.
The IDF spokesperson reported that Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said “I approved the deployment of the first battery of the Iron Dome as a preliminary trial … The battery will be deployed in the South, being moved from time to time according to operational needs. The system can fire back if fired at but it’s important to remember that the Dome is still not full proof”. The IDF statement added that “The Iron Dome is considered a significant achievement of the Israeli security industry, at the moment in the process of assimilation into the air force and operational use. The system is currently under evaluation. It will be used to respond to the threat of rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel, its capabilities including attacking, alerting and protection. Upon assessment of the security situation in southern Israel, it was decided the Dome would be deployed. The IDF stresses that the Dome will not be used consistently and its moved around according what the situation necessitates”.
At the start of today’s cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, according to a communique from his office, that: “The last two years have been the most quiet in the past decade, vis-à-vis security in the south and in general. During these two years, we adopted a policy of systematic and consistent responses to any attack against Israel. In the last two weeks, various elements have tried to violate the quiet and the security to which we have become accustomed in the last two years. Naturally, we are interested in quiet and security. While we have no interest in escalating the situation, we will not hesitate to use the might of the IDF against anyone who attacks our people. We will not countenance attacks on our citizens. This is the policy of the Government of Israel. This is the policy of every government and of every country, which have the right and the obligation to defend their citizens”.
The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday here that “The first battery will be deployed near Beersheba and the second battery near Ashkelon. IDF sources said, however, that the batteries were mobile and could be moved to other parts of the South per operational requirements. Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 km. Each battery consists of a multi-mission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors named Tamir. The system has undergone a series of tests in recent weeks. The IDF stressed that the deployment was part of what it called an ‘operational test’ and that the Air Defense Division was prepared for the possibility that the Iron Dome will not work as expected”.
The same JPost article also said: “Netanyahu said that the Iron Dome system was still in its experimental stages. The true answer to the missile attacks he said was a combination of deterrence, preventive measures and the resilience of the government and the people. In any event, Netanyahu said, Israel holds Hamas as responsible for anything that is fired from the Gaza Strip”.
The IDF, however, reported that according to the Commander of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, “‘Hamas has lost control of other organizations within the Gaza Strip. There is anarchy among them and within Hamas itself. There’s no authority over any facet and it’s difficult for Hamas to regain control”. This is published here.
The JPost article reported, however, that “Brig-Gen Doron Gavish , commander of the IAF Air Defense Division echoed the prime ministers sentiments, saying ‘the iron dome can provide good but not hermetic protection’, as soldiers began deploying the first battery of the system outside of Beersheba … Gavish said that the deployment of the Iron Dome was part of the IDF’s wider strategy of using offensive as well as passive defensive means to combat Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. He said that despite the Iron Dome deployment, the public must continue to listen to the Home Front Command’s instructions regarding what to do in the event of a missile attack. Gavish said that the battery would be mobile, moving according to operational requirements and the decision to launch interceptors or not would be taken by commanders in real time at the battery. ‘Our job is to give decision makers flexibility and therefore we are deploying in different places so at the end of the process they will be able to decide where is best to deploy’, Gavish said. There had been some hesitancy in the defense establishment about the deployment of the Iron Dome outside of Israeli cities. Some officials believed the system should be deployed outside of bases to provide the IAF with protection in the event of a larger conflict and allow for continued operations in the event of an attack. The IAF Air Defense Division will complete the deployment of the first battery in the beginning of the week and the second battery towards the end of the week. The decision to deploy the system was made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who came under pressure from residents of the South who are under missile fire”.