Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system is an ironclad success

By Uzi Rubin
August 5, 2014

An interception of a rocket by the Iron Dome anti-missile system is seen above Sderot

While the troops of Israel’s Air Defense Command are blasting Grad and Fajr rockets shot from Gaza out of the sky with success, there are an obsessive few who try to blast Iron Dome’s evident achievements into oblivion. They insist on trivializing the missile-defense system’s rock-solid record because the facts don’t fit their theory that no missile defense system can ever work.

RELATED COLUMNS
David Axe: Israel's Iron Dome is more like an iron sieve
EDITOR: Two views of Iron Dome's success in Israel
The chief Iron Dome scold is Ted Postol of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a professor with academic standing but no experience in designing or managing the development of modern missile systems. He postulates that missile defense is innately belligerent and as quixotic as “the idea that a nuclear war can be won” but admits that the public would not  readily agree with his views. He casts missile defense as irretrievably faulty and wasteful, with Iron Dome — the product Israeli technical savvy and U.S. defense funds — squarely in his sights.

Judging from grainy YouTube downloads of Iron Dome interceptions that show mostly indistinct windswept smoke trails and blast clouds, Postol infers that the majority of the interceptors over Israel have missed their targets. But none of the images show the targeted rocket. He relies on his own calculations on how Iron Dome ought to work.

Ironically, Postol’s fellow critic, Richard Lloyd of Tesla Laboratories, has said he believes Iron Dome’s success rate to be almost eightfold higher than that calculated by Postol — 30 percent to 40 percent — though they both viewed the same footage. When two critics working so closely together disagree so dramatically in their conclusions, one may wonder at the scientific rigor of their analyses.

In real life, Iron Dome works in the skies over Israel, and impressively so. The 84 percent success rate achieved in the Gaza war of 2012 has improved to 90 percent in the current conflict, according to both Israeli and U.S. officials who have been in the command rooms and privy to top-secret interception data that, for security reasons, is not made public.

A simple question disproves the critics. How can it be that more than 2,200 rockets of all kinds have been fired at Israeli population centers since July 8, but there have been so few casualties? Just one person has been killed by a Grad rocket, and he was hit in an open desert area not protected by Iron Dome.

Postol theorizes that it is Israel’s civil defense system that does the work — that people, warned in time by sirens, take cover and are saved. Yet this does not explain why so few rocket strikes are registered in the large population centers that Iron Dome is designed to protect. Of the hundreds of rockets fired at the city of Ashdod to date, for example, only 12 hit residential areas.

Are Hamas rockets that inaccurate? Why, after 60 or so heavier rockets have been fired at Tel Aviv, has not one impact been registered to date within city limits, save for the debris of visibly intercepted ones?

Moreover, can Postol explain the fact that, with all the current civil defense measures available in Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war, including public alarm systems and shelters already in place, Hezbollah rockets killed scores of Israelis while the same kinds of rockets now fired by Hamas fail to achieve anywhere near the same degree of lethality?

The only fundamental difference between the two campaigns is Iron Dome. In 2006, it was not in existence. Today, its protects Israel’s major population centers.

While some would argue that the Israeli government is lying to its citizens and hiding the truth about many more rocket impacts, anyone who knows Israel’s voracious media and its smartphone-toting public will understand that such allegations are ludicrous. You simply can’t hide things like that in Israel.

Postol has argued that the U.S. government has been untruthful with its citizens about missile defense. Israel’s government, too, is now accused of lying both to its own public and to the U.S. government about Iron Dome.

The truth is that Iron Dome works, repeatedly and reliably. It is saving lives and property all over Israel. The public in Israel — and, no doubt, U.S. peace mediators — are fully aware of and immensely grateful for the fact Iron Dome works so well.

PHOTO: An interception of a rocket by the Iron Dome anti-missile system is seen above the Israeli town of Sderot July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

13 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Seems that same folks that discredited Patriots against Scuds as faked results are same as citical now, They were correct then, and claim that Dome can ONLY hit when headon targeting, not passing as some claim and show. What is real truths as this is turning into Patriot/Raytheon welfare.

Posted by chuck2 | Report as abusive

Hey, you get a couple Billion a year free from the US gubmint you do a lot. All those rich Jews in NYC and our gubmint has to give them Billions, what disgrace.

Posted by UKantHndleTruth | Report as abusive

Anytime the Iron Dome system gets an upgrade – Israel stirs up Hamas by killing a few innocents to do live tests of the upgrades.

Yep USA/Israel have a great and ready available cheap testing system. Only a couple thousand a year innocents killed. Small price to pay for profit and uncontested financial genocide of perceived poor enemies who will just not die.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

Good point. We should give a couple billion and an iron dome to the Palestinians too…would save a lot of innocent lives in Gaza.

Posted by jimst | Report as abusive

I would be more convinced if the photo accompanying the article was more convincing. People that understand that a few seconds’ warning and a brick wall will save your life IF you immediately jump behind the wall. And small charges save lives: Hamas rockets’s explosives are in the 10 to 20 lb range versus, say, 2,000 pounds for an Israeli laser guided bomb. If the other trail had stopped or scattered at the intercept point then we’d have a photograph that shows a successful intercept. Can we see a few dozen of those, please?

Posted by AceHoffman | Report as abusive

The Hamas rockets are useless — even before the Iron Dome, the rockets barely hit targets inside Israel and killed fewer than 20 people over the span of about 8 years. But the rockets are a huge propaganda piece for the Israeli government. The Israeli government knows that Israel, a state with nuclear bombs, F-16s, and all the top weaponry of any modern state, has nothing to fear from those antique rockets. But the rockets keep fear in the Israeli population, and out of this misguided fear, Israelis allow their government to use real weapons — bombs and white phosphorus — on the unarmed Palestinian civilian population. The Israeli government also plays up the rockets to milk U.S. taxpayers out of our hard-earned money — who do you think paid for the Iron Dome? It’s time for the Israeli parasites to stop obstructing the peace process, let the Palestinians have their state, and stop living off of U.S. money!

Posted by cautious123 | Report as abusive

If the apartheid state of Isreal is such a prosperous nation, why do they still come to us for aid? Why do we send them the $6 billion a year that we do? Why do we finance their military? I thought they are a rich nation???

I know we the US support apartheid, but why are we giving welfare to a supposed “rich country”?????

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

Take this article with a grain of salt. The author is Uzi Rubin.

WIKI:
Uzi Rubin is a former Brigadier General in the Israeli Air Force. He has been involved in Israeli military research, development, and engineering programs for almost forty years. Between 1991 and 1999, he served as head of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization, and in that capacity he oversaw the development of Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense system. He was awarded the Israel Defense Prize in 1996. He is a fellow of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.

Posted by JulsMan | Report as abusive

At the end of the day the Baby killers are proud of their inventions, “ISRAELI APARTHEID IN ACTION”

Posted by brainless | Report as abusive

Do the air raid sirens really make much difference ? The rockets travel at nearly 1k/s over about 40k. So there is less than a minute to get under cover. Most adults would struggle to run more than 100m in a minute, from a random start.

Posted by andychrys | Report as abusive

The Hamas rockets are not ICBM which travel at 18,000mph vs 600mph and the area of the US in 1000x that of Israel. Building a missile system for the US is a fools errand costing trillions of dollars and even at 90% success rate millions would die in a nuclear attack. SO STOP THE NONSENSE.

Posted by dyanmited7777 | Report as abusive

Day by Day, Israel is creating an island of isolation, totally disconnected from a global society. It would be all said and good if they did not create so much harm to others by living in fear and hatred of anyone different than they are.

Their government is a very dangerous entity with a lot of destructive power readily available with short fuses.

We sat in quiet disgrace watching the rise and abuse of many nations in the last century, and again now chose to look the other way – in politically correctedness and financial fear we will offend the decedents of the dead from a war over half a century ago. Shame, shame – on all of us for what is transpiring before our apathetic eyes.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

@JulsMan

Yeah, no ****. Perhaps if you had bothered to read the article, or the author profile clearly displayed. Instead of posting your incoherent drivel.

Posted by DougAnderson | Report as abusive