Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Shield the skies from rocket attacks, now and tomorrow"

"Shield the skies from rocket attacks, now and tomorrow" - that is the slogan that is used to advertise the Iron Dome. The "now" is used vaguely because the latest test of this missile defense system experienced some delays. However, on this Sunday morning the test was conducted. Some commentators were all but modest and wrote that the system passed the test with flying colors. AFP writes that the Iron Dome will not only be able to intercept the military-grade Katyusha rockets used by Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and the cruder Qassam rockets favored by Hamas but that the system will also be effective against mortar fire which has a much smaller window of warning. It was previously believed the system would be ineffective against mortar attacks since mortar shells hit targets within 10 seconds. In contrast to that, Qassams can sometimes reach their target within 20 seconds.

According to a scheme prepared by the Israeli arms manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, who is under contract to produce the Iron Dome, the small kinetic missile interceptor called Tamir will be launched just one second after the rocket itself is fired.

This information stands in stark contrast to what DEBKAfile writes. According to their information the Iron Dome’s interceptor needs 15 seconds to locate, determine the flight path. The glossy Iron Dome two-page brochure is not as precise as the scheme:

The system uses a unique interceptor with a special warhead that detonates any target in the air within seconds.
The Iron Dome system is expected to be fully operational within a year. Meanwhile others already speculate how many missiles will be launched during a potential next war. Major General Ben Eliahu, who was the commander of the Israel Air Force from 1996 to 2000, estimates that in the next war, Syria and Iran might launch between 250 and 300 SRBMs / MRBMs at Israel (Shahab and Scud missiles) and another 5,000 short-range rockets (mainly from Lebanon). The Times specified this information by reporting that Iran has moved ballistic missiles into launch positions, with Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant among the possible targets.

In comparison with Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, the predicted number of missiles is significantly higher. Two years ago Israel came under sustained attack; more than 4,000 Katyusha rockets were launched at northern Israel in 34 days, sending hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing south.

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