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Iron Dome System Failed Miserably

Iron Dome dud: success rate only 5% (AFP/Getty)

After Operation Pillar of Smoke (yes, I know it’s Pillar of Cloud, but I prefer to call it “smoke,” as “up in…smoke”), the IDF claimed that its Iron Dome anti-missile system performed brilliantly destroying 84% of its targets.  Defense Minister Barak sang its praises, Israeli civilians breathed a sign of relief to finally have a weapon that could protect them from incessant Gaza rocket attacks.  Home Front Minister Avi Dichter even used a truly capitalist metaphor to convey Israel’s admiration:

“Were Iron Dome traded on the (Tel Aviv) stock exchange or Nasdaq, it would have multiplied its share value several times over.”

Turns out it’s a good thing for investors they couldn’t buy shares in this thing because, while it’s not exactly a fraud, the IDF lied through its teeth about the results.  Their investment would’ve gone bust.  Writing in Haaretz   (Hebrew and English), military affairs columnist Reuven Pedatzur quotes three technical specialists who severely downgrade the effectiveness of Iron Dome.

The experts are Theodore Postol (whose findings are summarized in English here), Dr. Mordechai Shefer, and an unnamed scientist who worked for Iron Dome’s manufacturer, Raytheon, till recently.  After examining hundreds of videos of Iron Dome launchings during the military campaign, they came to the conclusion that the anti-missile weapon may’ve shot down 5% of its targets.  They define a definite kill as a missile hitting the nose of the rocket, where the weapons payload is.  The IDF’s claims of success, they explain, result from confusion about the explosion that often occurred as the missile approached its target.  In the vast majority of cases, the explosion was that of the missile self-destructing when it detected it would not strike the Palestinian rocket.

Postol also evaluated the success rate of Patriot missiles during the Gulf War and found that they didn’t hit any of their targets.

The experts also note a wide discrepancy between the number of damage claims by Israeli civilians (3,200) and the number of rockets the IDF concedes struck built-areas (58).  Even the Israeli police reported 109 incidents in which they investigated damage from Palestinian rockets, which is double the number that the IDF claims.

If we keep in mind that Palestinian rockets are slow-moving, extremely primitive weapons and note the failure of Iron Dome at hitting them, missile experts have noted the anti-missile system would have much greater difficulty hitting more sophisticated rockets fired from missile launchers (such as what Hezbollah might mount).

Before Israel and the U.S. rush into a billion-dollar spending spree for this whiz-bang system, it’s best that sober-minded people examine its real capabilities.  The price of Iron Dome is mind-boggling.  Israel wants 13 more batteries with each costing $50-million.  That’s close to $600-million.  Missile experts have estimated that during an intense military attack Israel might spend $380-million a DAY on defensive operations.  While I’m all in favor of protecting Israeli lives, is it worth a sum in the billions to shoot down 5% of the enemy rockets that it targets?

It’s fascinating to note that the IDF response to this report was not what I would expect.  They did not reaffirm the 84% accuracy rate of which they boasted earlier:

Operation Pillar of Cloud will be investigated in all its aspects, including the activity of the Iron Dome system. All interceptions [of missiles] by Iron Dome are investigated, with cross-checking of system data, radar [data], reports of different sources on the ground and other information. The data of [Iron Dome] activity was arrived at based on this process.

This to me indicates that they have little confidence in their former claims.

The hype and fraudulent claims around Iron Dome are characteristic of the entire Israeli national security system.  It makes extravagant claims either about the danger posed by an enemy (Iran) or about the success of a weapons system.  Many of which turn out to be based on little more than wishful thinking.  Israel bases much of its strategic military thinking on what it wants to happen, rather than what will or may happen.  Which is how it gets into trouble when it actually has to fight a war or military campaign.

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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Ron March 8, 2013, 3:25 AM

    Although I have no specific information about iron dome, I can attest that Israel’s military has lied in similar situations. I remember the first gulf war where all media were praising the effectiveness of the Patriot system against Saddam’s scuds, a lie which has been fed to them by the military. People in the know (like myself back then) knew that it was lies and that the Patriot batteries were 100% ineffective against Scud missiles and in fact, exacerbated the damage by hitting populated areas instead of the incoming missiles.

    • Nimrod March 8, 2013, 5:44 AM

      @Ron – who are you kidding? EVERYONE who served in the airforce back than knew that the Patriot batteries were 100% ineffective against Scud missiles. The whole reason for they were deployed was to anesthetize the Israeli public in preparation for the war.
      But even if some people had some hope that the Patriots can shoot down Scuds, they were gone after the first Scud struck Ramat-Gan and Patriot interceptor came down into the ground a few seconds later.
      And they kept using those useless missiles, even when every TV show was making fun of it.
      This was one of the main reason why PM Shamir was kicked out of politics and Rabin became PM.

  • Fred Plester March 8, 2013, 5:00 AM

    The funny thing is, the Iron Dome hardware probably could do the job, if the software in the missile itself was better.

    Better software needs an investment in testing and simulation, and that’s probably where Israel is weakest.

    Israel has lots of hackers, but perhaps not so many competent writers of original real time application software.

    • Israeli March 12, 2013, 5:19 PM

      Actually software is Israeli specialty, Iron Dome worked fine, amazing that MIT professor could raise such idiotic claims, oh and Postol is in no whatsoever way is a missile expert not to mention world renowned.

      • Richard Silverstein March 12, 2013, 8:51 PM

        What a pathetic comment. Postol is indeed world renowned in this field. He teaches at MIT. Where do you teach? The Hasbara Institute?

  • John Doe March 8, 2013, 5:23 AM

    Since I know the iron dome numbers from the inside, they are actually as high as they are publicized. As Rephael’s spokesmen was quoted in Haaretz, “Iron Dome’s radar system is meant to assess which rockets may hit a populated area, and intercept only the rockets that pose the most risk”. (see http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/iron-dome-rocket-defense-system-will-be-operational-by-2010-1.273834 ). If you calculate the percentage of which of those rockets that were determined to be a threat are actually shot down (in areas where iron dome batteries exist), you find that the percentage is unprecedently high. Those who say bad things about iron dome’s success are saying so on the expense of the lives of those israeli’s which can be saved.

    • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 4:09 PM

      @JohnDoe: Great, an anonymous commenter who claims to know Iron Dome “from the inside.” Inside of what? The missile? Your ass? Either you’re a defense contractor with an ax to grind since Iron Dome is your meal ticket or you’re a current or past serving IAF member who knows something about missiles. Either way your judgment is shrouded by self-interest. Not to mention you’ve offered absolutely no real evidence to support your claims. We like evidence here. And facts.

  • Nimrod March 8, 2013, 5:37 AM

    @Richard, I think that the system’s results speak for themselves.

    hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel – most were standard 122mm “grad” type, some were the Iranian Iranian Fajr-5 or a Gaza built “M-75″ (which is the same Fajr-5, assembled in Gaza), and only 4 Israelis were killed – all in an areas where the Iron Dome system was not deployed: 3 civilians in a building in Kiryat Malakhi and one reserve soldier who was in an open area near a supply base in the area.

    But don’t take my word for it. find some footage of the system in action in youtube and measure the success rate yourself. I recommend looking for footage from Beer-Sheva, which received barrages on 10-12 rockets at a time.

    • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 4:50 PM

      Once again, you don’t read the post you’re allgedly commenting on. The missile technician experts viewed hundreds of videos of Iron Dome launchings & used this evidence to make their finding.

      Your faith in Iron Dome is misplaced just as you acknowledged that faith in the Patriot missile technology was misplaced. There’s little difference in the results between the two.

  • Professor Giora Shaviv March 8, 2013, 5:46 AM

    This is based on completely wrong numbers and wrong understanding of the technical problems. I fail to understand the authors of this stupid article.
    There is no point is starting a detailed reply. It will be a disaster for Israel if such rubbish articles will influence the decisions.

    • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 3:56 PM

      A short web search revealed that Giora Shaviv is an emeritus astrophysics professor at the Technion. Among his more dubious claims to fame is that he denies climate change is caused by man, but rather caused by “the sun.” He has called Al Gore “an idiot.” I don’t believe missile technology is any more his field of expertise than climate science is. The problem is that academics are so used to being considered intellectual gods they make the mistake that they actually know as much about unrelated fields as they do about their own. You can only wonder what theories he has about missile technology.

      I do enjoy commenters who must tell us their job title as if that will impress us with their credentials. However, poor Professor Shaviv thinks so ill of us that he won’t even share his superior knowledge of the techincal issues. Can you imagine him going into a physics lecture hall & telling the students that they were so stupid he wouldn’t waste his time teaching them the material. I hope Professor you treat your students better than you’ve treated us.

      Oh & by the way, we can understand a lucid non-technical explanation of your claims despite your belief in our imbecility. You might try that next time. Disdain isn’t an especially effective rhetorical mode.

      • Kevin Herbert March 8, 2013, 7:58 PM

        Professor Giora Shaviv:

        Opinions presented without data, may be dismissed without data.

        Quite simple really

  • jacob March 8, 2013, 9:24 AM

    i don’t know what the rate was but it was pretty clear that the rocket cuased almost no damages compared to earlier conflicts so to me this study looks like b. s.

    • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 3:53 PM

      @jacob: “Pretty clear” means I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. There were 3,600 claims of damage or injury in Israel. That certainly qualifies as “almost no damage” if you maintain no connection to reality or don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • Elad R March 8, 2013, 11:45 AM

    Pedhatzur had been an advocate of SkyGuard for years, I think one should consider his story with a grain of salt.
    With respect to the actual reports, do you have a link ?

    • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 3:59 PM

      @EladR: Pedatzur also believed the IDF success rate for Iron Dome at the end of Pillar of Cloud too. But when he learned other techincal information he changed his mind. That’s called scientific method. You use the evidence you have to make a judgment. When better information comes along you adapt your view accordingly. There’s no shame in that. This is precisely what happened to Postol himself who initially believed Patriot missiles had a huge success rate during the Gulf War. THen he changed his opinion as evidence proved that wrong.

      If anyone has any links to any scientific or technical reports by any of these sources please let me know. I also suggest that you write directly to Prof. Pedatzur who may be able to help you.

      • Matan P March 9, 2013, 3:31 PM

        @Richard: Pedatzur was the most outspoken critic of Iron Dome, hands down. Not only during the deployment of Iron Dome, but during the development as well. See here in this opinion piece authored by him:
        http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/1.1277817

        He apparently favors another weapons system, the American-made Vulcan Phalanx.

        I don’t think it is accurate to say that he believed the IDF success rate at first, then changed his mind when he learned of other technical information. Reuven Pedatzur believed in 2009 and apparently believes today that the entire concept the Iron Dome system was based upon is wrong.

        But that obviously doesn’t discredit his findings, as it’s a base ad-hominem attack on Prof. Pedatzur. I think there are other problems with this research, but I don’t care to argue them here, and I apologize for that. I just wanted to present Prof. Pedatzur’s obvious bias.

        • Richard Silverstein March 9, 2013, 4:13 PM

          He wrote a Haaretz piece just after Pillar of Cloud ended which conceded based on findings available at that time that the success rate was higher than expected. He even congratulated Tzahal on this. I can get you the link if you want/need it. I think the fact that he wrote this is a tribute to his attempt to be fair & accurate. Similarly, this latest report is his return to his previous view based on new information that is available. That’s how scientists & evidence works.

          Thanks for your comment, which I agree with.

          • Elad R March 9, 2013, 6:30 PM

            Since there isn’t accurate date available and i fear both Palestinian organizations & IDF will not release their records pertaining to any rocket specifics activity, all we can go by is the data published in Wikipedia.
            Wikipedia presents the information for both Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud.

            During operation Cast lead (no Iron Dome) Hamas fired 547 rockets and mortar shells
            Out of which (according to the reports of the Israeli police) 255 fell inside Israeli Urban areas . That reflects an impact rate of 47%

            During Pillar of Cloud
            Hamas fired 1506 rockets (not including mortar shells)
            Out of which (according to the reports of the Israeli police) 109 fell inside Israeli Urban areas. That reflects an impact rate of 7%. We also know that Iron Dome intercepted 421 rockets.

            Since we can’t compare the number of rockets fired to the numbers of interceptor missiles launched against them – that number is probably classified – and since we don’t have any target specific information from the Palestinians, we can only assume that at least 50%(*) of the Palestinian rockets were aimed at Israeli urban areas, if we assume that 30% out of the 753 rockets were about to fall in open spaces, it leave us with approximately 527 rockets against which an interception attempt was made . So it is safe to assume that Iron Dome launched its interceptor against 527 rockets. Since IDF claims to have intercepted 421 rockets, and since we know 109 fell inside urban areas which reflect a success rate of about 80%. IDF claims a bit higher rate, which is entirely possible as we are dealing with guesstimates.

            Based on Pedhatuzr’s (Postol’s?) assumptions which grant the Iron Dome 5% success rate, the number of Rockets to hit Israeli urban areas, should have been approximately 500, The data doesn’t reflect that.

            * Assuming that only 50% of the PA fired rockets were aimed at the Israeli Urban areas is a very modest assumption, as the Palestinian’s practiced the technique associated with this type of weaponry for years.

          • Richard Silverstein March 9, 2013, 10:19 PM

            @EladR: Your argument is essentially the technical findings of three eminent scientists in the field of missile technology based on their review of physical evidence and videos should be ignored and instead we should trust the numbers offered to us by the Israeli police and IDF. And why would we do that?

            Sorry, I don’t accept Wikipedia as an authoritative source on such matters. I would accept such figures were they to come from a respected NGO if there was such a body. But Wikipedia without any other corroborating source? No, sorry.

            Further, you say “Hamas” launched all these rockets. Another unfortunate commonplace Israeli mistake. “Hamas” didn’t launch all those rockets any more than the “Likud” launched Operation Pillar of Smoke.

            And even further, you base the reports of impacts in urban areas on the Israeli police. And remind me why, again, we accept the police as authoritative sources on anything? Why were there 3,200 claims of damage to people and property submitted by Israelis but only 109 reports of impacts by the police?

            I also don’t know what you mean by “urban area.” Is that the same as “residential areas” or “built up areas?” Were there impacts in non-urban areas you’re not counting? If so, why not?

            As for all your “assuming this” and “assuming that,” I’m sorry but I’m not prepared to concede any such assumptions.

            We also know that Iron Dome intercepted 421 rockets.

            Why would I accept the IDF claim that it intercepted 421 rockets when the entire subject of my post was the IDF didn’t intercept anywhere near that number? You have produced no evidence that supports the IDF claim, yet accept the IDF’s word anyway.

            Finally, you make two claims that Palestinian rockets were “aimed” at Israeli urban areas. How do you “aim” a primitive rocket? You don’t. You shoot it in the general direction you want it to go and hope it gets there. That’s called prayer, not rocket telemetry. If you fire enough of them, you (if you’re a militant) hope a few will hit their mark.

          • Elad R March 10, 2013, 12:19 AM

            First Pedhatuzer isn’t a scientist; his degree (Phd) is in the field of political science. So there are only 2 Scientists involved. Second as you probably know, Prof. Postol didn’t write a comprehensive report at this time, so you really have no base for your claims , either then the article written by Pedhatuzer who shows lack of understanding in the intended behavior of the Iron Dome interceptor Re: sharp turn prior to impact.

            Re: Wikipedia, Prof. Postol would need to something to base is research on, without an agreed upon number of Rockets fired on the state of Israel he will not be able to analyze the Iron Dome efficiency rate, I am wondering what figures he is going to use, he will not have access to classified information, and my guess is that he will use the Wikipedia figures.
            Hamas in the context of this verbiage equal Hamas + any other organization. This is not a politically oriented document and I don’t think it should be treated as one.

            The rocket that hits the ground causes an explosion. Each explosion causes damage to more than one object, for example a rocket that hits a street can break 20 windows and smash 5 cars, and the range of rocket fragments is quite wide. I would love to see the raw claim data for association analysis.

            Urban area is a residential area, I am not counting Rocket falls within open areas for a very simple reason, the Iron Dome radar can distinguish between rockets aimed at residential/urban area’s and Rockets aimed at open spaces. No interceptor is launched towards Rockets aimed at open spaces.

            Rocket (Grad / Quasam) aiming is actually more precise then you think, you have 3 factors within your control:
            1. The angle the rocket is fired at
            2. The azimuth it is fired to
            3. The engine burn time
            Those 3 factors determine the trajectory path and the estimated point of impact, it is simple trigonometry.
            You make corrections as you go along, Since the Palestinians have been firing for years I’m sure they built Trajectory cards for many targets, which means that once a low level militant is launching a rocket from point A, he knows what the setting (of the 3 factors) should be to hit the vicinity of a specific target. It’s not as accurate as gps guidance. But it’s more accurate then you think.

          • Fred Plester March 10, 2013, 1:42 AM

            If it’s a proper Grad, in a proper launcher, then it’s reasonably accurate.

            But in many cases one or the other is lashed up or homemade in some way. Or simply misunderstood.

            The Taliban used to employ Grad rockets without a launcher: they would lay them on piles of sand aimed at some line of sight target, with an alarm clock and battery (truly!) on the firing circuit. It wasn’t very accurate, but it allowed a “rocket attack” to happen when the Taliban were already home and in bed, and American troops in particular would still be reacting to the event at lunchtime the next day. Huge amounts of machine gun fire used to laid down on empty mountainsides in consequence.

            If Palestinians were like the Taliban for thoughtful, observant expertise, Israel would be a goner.

            A sudden turn at the last minute is the reason why the Aster 30 missile had lateral thrusters built into it at the insistence of the European partners, but with proper guidance algorithms and software the weapon is perfectly capable of scoring direct hits on ballistic targets without these, and tests to prove their value had to be somewhat contrived. If the target is capable of last-minute evasive action, it has a purpose, but for something like a Grad, which, as you indicate is on a simple ballistic trajectory, it’s counter-productive compared to re-iteratively calculating better and better intercept trajectories throughout the interceptor missile’s flight.

            It was understanding of this, which allowed British SAMs in the fifties and sixties to dispense with the small nuclear warheads which began to appear on their American counterparts. Nuclear warheads were planned for all of: Bloodhound, Thunderbird and Seaslug, but in the event it proved possible to improve the guidance dramatically and the second versions of all of these had as good a kill probability as assorted American nuclear-tipped sledgehammers. Which soon began to sport effective guidance instead of 0.25 Kt warheads once it was realized that you could hit things.

            One problem with firing in the general direction of an intercept with a last-minute violent correction, is the same one as you have with laser weapons: there’s uncertainty about exactly where everything is, due to atmospheric effects, on radar as well as optical tracking. So continuous, but SMOOTHLY integrated recalculation and correction seems to be the best strategy and has been so in some parts of the world for decades.

            The real difference between Seawolf and Seaceptor is that in the latter case, the computing power that used to be in the tons of tracking equipment on the launch platform, is now in the missile itself. Which means that as it approaches the target, sensor information is less and less distorted and time lags are shorter and shorter. Turn that on its head and you know why early Patriots (guided from the ground) tended to always miss: the biggest imprecision was in the terminal phase.

            I think there’s now far more intelligence on the Patriot missile itself, but I don’t know about the rounds in stock in Israel. The more advanced ones seem to have gone to Japan, where the threat of a nuclear missile appears to be somewhat more imminent than in Israel -and where the customer is actually paying with his own money.

          • Richard Silverstein March 10, 2013, 1:43 AM

            False, read the article again. First, Pedatzur served as a decorated pilot in the IAF. He therefore knows quite a bit about air war in general, which I presume might involve missile technology as well. Second, there are indeed THREE scientists involved whose names are listed in the article (one uses only a first initial likely because he worked for Raytheon, which produced the Patriot system).

            You & I have both written to Postol and you & I both know that he’s writing an extensive article on this subject. You & I both know that his views are precisely as Pedatzur describes them because that’s what he’s told us (at least what he told me). So you can debunk the article by attempting to attribute it’s alleged faults to Pedatzur alone. You also have to rebut Postol’s claims, which you haven’t done.

            Let’s not continue this discussion. It’s not going anywhere and there is no need for you to respond. Feel free to participate in other threads for other posts. But let’s retire our disagreement in this thread.

            Saying that aiming a Palestinian rocket is a matter of trigonometry is like saying the path of a baby’s wobbly first steps may be predicted using a Google algorithm. The baby and the rocket may have other ideas.

  • eden March 8, 2013, 2:24 PM

    In time of war, news are a weapon. Information, leaks, disinformation, fake reports, …..all is fair game.
    If I were an Iranian general , for example, I may read your blog and think there is clear evidence that the iron dome does not work. Then again, I may think that since you are a Zionist, you are just saying that to make me test it so that you can retaliate against my country.
    Judgement day comes at the end of the war. When the fog lifts and we see where everyone is standing.

    • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 3:51 PM

      And aren’t we thankful that you’re not an Iranian general. They’re likely to be smarter than you. If they do read this blog then I’m sure they’ll know exactly how to take what I write here. Hopefully, it won’t be any of the perspectives you outline above.

      • eden March 8, 2013, 7:59 PM

        I actually doubt anyone who actually knows anything read your blog….sorry ro burst that bubble.

        • Richard Silverstein March 8, 2013, 8:35 PM

          I actually doubt anyone who actually knows anything read your blog

          I think you’re speaking of yourself.

          • jsigur March 14, 2013, 3:38 PM

            Iran has no history of attacking it’s neighbors-this is clear onesided aggression and the only way you need to worry about being attacked, is if you guys attack 1st-that includes the favorite war starter-false flagged op blaming your enemy perpetrate by yourselves

          • jsigur March 14, 2013, 3:40 PM

            thanks Richard for outing the obvious Israeli propaganda and taking all the flack from those that fall for it!

  • Elad R March 8, 2013, 4:23 PM

    The main claim raised by the article, is that the interceptor missile is making a very sharp turn seconds prior to the actual interception, the article claims that there is no way the interceptor will finally “remember” to turn and it is a sign of a problem.

    I understand the specifications of Iron dome are kept classified and the experts had no access to those specs, however a simple search in Janes magazine could have revealed, that the turn is intentional: “Developer Rafael has, therefore, equipped the Iron Dome interceptor with a simple radio-frequency seeker covered with a plastic radome. A conical tin head protects the seeker from the heat during most of the flight and is removed seconds before the interception, allowing the seeker to acquire the target and guide the interceptor to the encounter.”

    http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-security-report.aspx?id=1065927116
    Pedhatuzr, who has been a very vocal advocate for a different system for years, is doing a bad job proving his claims.

    • Gray Matter March 10, 2013, 4:06 AM

      [comments must contain substance and not treat the comment threads as a cheering section--no one's scoring here nor should you.]

  • Kevin Herbert March 8, 2013, 7:48 PM

    This story is not in the least surprising, and is similar to the empty rhetoric of the Reagan Administrations’s Star Wars missile defence system.

    Intellectually & morally corrupt political systems like Israel & the US eventually come apart at the seams, as we are now seeing.

  • Ael March 8, 2013, 8:23 PM

    I would not be surprised if hitting a Gaza rocket was harder than hitting a higher tech ballistic missile having roughly the same range. The lower manufacturing tolerances would make the flight profile less predictable and the (presumably) higher drag means that the rocket is traveling a lot faster in the beginning of the flight than it is near the end.

  • ToivoS March 8, 2013, 11:07 PM

    The hype and fraudulent claims around Iron Dome are characteristic of the entire Israeli national security system.

    Not just that but they are characteristic of the entire antimissile defense industry that is centered in the US. I am sure the Americans are quite happy to support Israeli fraudulent claims since it helps sell more of these systems to not just the American military but also to the Gulf emirates that seem to have fallen victim to these grifters. Since these systems are gifts from the US the Israelis have little to complain.

  • mary March 8, 2013, 11:59 PM

    The weapons industry, specifically the lucrative sweetheart deal between the US and Israel, probably isn’t focused on the effectiveness of weapons programs so much as the amount of money exchanging hands. The Iron Dome is your proof. Even to lay persons watching from the sidelines, it was interesting how few rockets that highly-touted system actually shot down.

  • Fred Plester March 9, 2013, 4:15 AM

    Iron Dome ought to work, if Israel is up to creating guidance software based on the right algorithms:

    The Sea Wolf missile system, developed in the nineteen seventies and using the same basic missile as the land-based Rapier but with a more sophisticated fire control and tracking system (which weighed fifty tons at the time) would normally score direct hits on Vickers 4.5″ MK VI shells during development, testing, calibration and training shoots. We know they were direct hits because nobody bothered fitting these “hittiles” with proximity fuses until the late eighties.

    A 4.5″ MK VI shell is a smaller and somewhat faster target than a Grad artillery rocket.
    A Sea Wolf miss on such a target was unusual, even in the early eighties before various guidance and software improvements were put in place. This was on ranges in Dorset and Wales which might be taken to be mistier and cloudier than Israel normally is.

    The new “Seaceptor” missile is at least as capable at more than twice the range, and completely autonomous after launch. (It’s also significantly cheaper.) It obviously isn’t very economic to shoot down Grad rockets with any sort of guided weapon, but guided weapons that COULD do the job have been with us for nearly forty years.

    The only way that the Iron Dome failure is anything other than a problem with the software (or the basic algorithms on which the software is based), is if the relationship between forward and rearward aerodynamic surfaces creates a natural period of oscillation which is simply too long for the software to ever get the missile pointed at the right spot in time on a small target doing less than MACH 2. If that’s the case, and if much vaunted Israeli scientists and engineers went forward in development without spotting something that fundamental, then God help Israel. Probably fixable only by secretly starting again with a new missile airframe design and hoping no-one notices.

    It’s a bit hard to know, from the rock-candy twisting smoke trails, which problem it is. But the smoke trails I’ve seen on news footage suggest that Iron Dome’s guidance is currently working about as well as a nineteen fifties Firestreak or Blue Jay missile: spiralling in to the target on “bang-bang” control surface movements, where more modern missiles from the true West integrate their trajectories as a series of predicted intercept points, which the control surfaces moving the correctly amount to gently curve the flightpath as a nearly straight line is progressively corrected to the target.

    A man is currently appearing in court in England, on a charge of having fraudulently sold American-made “golf ball detectors” (basically, a novelty divining rod in a pseudo-electronic casing) to a number of foreign governments as “explosives detectors” at prices of up to £27,000 ea.

    The difference between him and the designers of Iron Dome, so far, would appear to be one of scale and ambition.

  • ariel March 9, 2013, 8:13 AM

    Raytheon isn’t the company that developed the iron dore – quite the opposite , they are the compitition who wants to develop the natulus which is a lesser based weapon – those so called specialists don’t have accsess to non of the real iron dome data. The real fact is that most of the palestinian misseles didn’t hit anything and the reoprt that they were intercepted made everyone clam. So yeah the system worked

  • Anyone know why they don't do this? March 12, 2013, 1:16 AM

    I’ve always wondered about how easy/hard it would be to defeat an incoming anti-missile interceptor.

    After all, are Hamas actually *aiming* at a particular target, other than “aim it at Israel, dudes”?

    So that’s the case (and, really, let’s face it; they can’t actually see what they are aiming at) then there is no real advantage to a ballistic flightpath, and such a flightpath must be the easiest to intercept.

    So why not deliberately introduce some randomness e.g. stick some fins on that grad, but attach it via springs, not bolts.

    The damn thing will wobble all over the sky but, hey, it’s not as if they were aiming at *that* person or *those* vehicles or *that* building.

    But a rocket that’s wobbling all over the sky must be a much, much more difficult proposition for Iron Dome, and for two reasons:
    1) The Israelis can’t simply ignore 90% of them on the basis of their projected impact point, simply because they can’t predict where these wobbly ol’ things are going to land
    2) Hey, it’s hard to hit something that bobbin’ ‘n’ weavin’….

  • Anonymous March 17, 2013, 12:53 PM

    Iron dome isnt meant to hit it’s target head-on. It’s specifically meant to pass by the incoming missle and explode near the target. This isn’t mearly ”self explosion” as a result of failure. This is purposeful explosion that destroys the incoming missle. That’s how the system works. Therefore iron dome’s success is much much higher than 5%, and probably approaches the 84% claim.

    • Richard Silverstein March 17, 2013, 4:01 PM

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. I think I’ll trust one of the world’s experts of missile technology over you. Unless of course you have a PhD in the subject & teach at MIT.

  • mohamed March 27, 2013, 4:08 AM

    it was a lot easier to defend against children throwing stones … u just shoot them
    today they use primitives rockets which can be a challenge
    tomorrow they will have better technology as sure as day follows nite (iran will see to it) u can bet ur life and ur bottom dollar on it

    But as long as corrupt $$zillions$$ are looted by the militaro industrial lobby from US taxpayers (who’s having a hard time to pay) , future generations of israelis will never live in peace … and that’s exactly what militaro complex (and likhud) want

  • mohamed March 27, 2013, 4:36 AM

    anti missile missiles concepts are a flawed strategy right at the outset, even with help of advanced radar the anti missile will always be a lot more expensive than the attacking missile,

    for the sake of argument let’s just say the antimissile is only 100 times more expensive than the attacking grad missile

    so far so good, cos the american taxpayer has infinite pockets, lets say iran (or a future nascent so called rogue state) increase the sophistication and cost of the incoming grad missile by a factor of 5 (in practice this means the grad is now capable of introducing a kink … at the right time in its otherwise very predictible trajectory)

    i would say the iron dome will now need to cost 800 times more (conservative estimate) and still have a good probabality of failure, if not greater, thats when infinite US taxpayer money might not seem so infinite after all, then the penny drops

    the increase in costs is not linear, it would now be exponentially higher for the anti-missile missile idea, so israel cannot win the measue / counter measure game in the long run, unless israel plans to be forever 100 000 times more wealthy (and therefore 100 000 times more ressourceful) than everyone else at all times

  • Morgan Carlston March 30, 2013, 9:30 PM

    There are several reasons why Professor Postol’s critique is most likely wrong as I have written in my blog.

    There were 5 Tzevah Adom alarms in Tel Aviv, all followed by explosions (either the Iron Dome or the Fajr-5). Were these “successful” interceptions, and if not, where did the warheads go? Tel Aviv is an urban area and the explosions that hundreds of thousands of people heard were either successful interceptions or 175 kg warheads striking the ground. Where is the damage of they were not intercepted?

    Secondly when there is an incomplete interception (the entire projectile is not destroyed), there is resulting debris which falls and causes considerable damage. Doesn’t it make much more sense that the fallout of interceptions is more likely to result in the massive number of police reports about rocket damage? If the un-intercepted warheads were responsible for causing this damage wouldn’t there be impact craters INSIDE Tel Aviv?

    Thirdly, why does Professor Postol conflate the Qassam, Katyusha/Grad and Fajr rockets? The majority of the rockets sent by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other militant groups in Gaza were Qassam which are not always interceptable by the Iron Dome due to their very short flight time. Isn’t it perfectly logical that many of these damage reports are from Qassam rockets, which the Iron Dome has no impact on?

    Lastly, Professor Postol endorsed the Iron Dome as a missile-defense system in a November 26, 2012 interview with MIT’s Technology review. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/507736/why-israels-iron-dome-missile-defense-system-actually-works/ What made him change his mind and why are media sources not asking him why this happened?

    See my blog post at the following for more in depth and links to what I’ve referenced.
    http://persophilia.blogspot.com/2013/03/why-criticism-of-iron-dome-may-be.html

    Regards,
    Morgan Carlston

  • Greta Berlin March 31, 2013, 9:15 AM

    Are you sure this is not just another case of Israel angling for more of our money? Seems to me the entire November insanity was started by Israel to test out the ‘Iron Dome,” using Palestinians and their own people as guinea pigs to see if it worked. Since it didn’t, how long before Israel comes to the U.S. with hands outstretched for more fundng?

  • Emeen April 27, 2013, 7:59 PM

    I think doing peace with the palestinian arab and muslims is a better idea don’t you think ? i mean why all those spendings in weapons while we can work together on more important things like the economy feeding the people science etc, btw i’m a pro hamas.

  • Nick October 21, 2013, 12:57 PM

    I think everyone’s missing something – the photograph of a double-explosion at the top of this page could be a genuine interception.

    The interceptor explodes, sending needle-shaped shrapnel into the rocket warhead which explodes a fraction of a second (but quite a few feet travelled) later.

    However, its the only such image that I’ve seen and one is bound to suppose that Iron Dome failed almost completely.

    @John Doe “Since I know the iron dome numbers from the inside, they are actually as high as they are publicized.”

    If Israelis were really so confident of their figures then they would be telling us how many rockets were fired and what the results were. In fact, it seems as if more Israelis were killed in Nov 2012 (6 off) than died in Dec 2009/Jan 2009 (4 off) – and that may have been from less rockets.

    In other words, Iron Dome must have failed. It failed again in Eilat the following month as reported in YnetNews.

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