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MIT's Ted Postol Presents More Evidence On Iron Dome Failures 454

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the makes-for-good-tv dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes In a controversial article last week, MIT physicist Ted Postol again questioned whether Israel's vaunted Iron Dome rocket defense system actually works. This week, he comes back with evidence in the form of diagrams, photos of Iron Dome intercepts and contrails, and evidence on the ground to show that Iron Dome in fact is effective only about 5% of the time. Postol believes the real reason there are so few Israeli casualties is that Hamas rockets have very small warheads (only 10 to 20 pounds), and also Israel's outstanding civil defense system, which includes a vast system of shelters and an incredibly sophisticated rocket attack warning system (delivered through smart phones, among other ways).
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MIT's Ted Postol Presents More Evidence On Iron Dome Failures

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  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @12:09AM (#47505321) Homepage Journal

    TFA is very interesting & I'm smarter for having read it...

    I'm glad people are looking at this kind of thing...it is *one* way to get some unbiased information

    So, "5% effective"...

    As TFA description reads, the number of Israeli casualties is mostly due to a combination of factors, including bomb shelters and early warnings...

    I think the "Iron Dome" people would respond to TFA thusly:

    "Yes, but **the program** is effective. "Iron Dome" is our missile defense system, which is one part of our civil defense, which is an entire program of things to keep people safe...if you look at the program in its entirity it's a success"

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      TFA is very interesting & I'm smarter for having read it...

      I'm glad people are looking at this kind of thing...it is *one* way to get some unbiased information

      So, "5% effective"...

      As TFA description reads, the number of Israeli casualties is mostly due to a combination of factors, including bomb shelters and early warnings...

      I think the "Iron Dome" people would respond to TFA thusly:

      "Yes, but **the program** is effective. "Iron Dome" is our missile defense system, which is one part of our civil defense, which is an entire program of things to keep people safe...if you look at the program in its entirity it's a success"

      There's only one problem with that "whole package" sales tactic.

      You can get other countries to pointlessly waste billions of dollars trying to re-create this same kind of defense system, including the insanely expensive part that pretty much doesn't work for shit.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      but it is specifically one part of the system.

      mostly it works because the rockets never get to hit it(due to being diy rockets of dubious quality), but it is morale booster.

      and as morale booster it works. fuck, some tourists are tweeting from over there "good day on the beach thanks to the iron dome ha" which .. is fucking insane. could choose somewhere better, even cypros for fucks ake..

      • Remember Patriot Missiles from the 1st Iraq war?

        Saddam was lobbing SCUDS at Israel & the US lent IDF a bunch of our trailer mounted ABM interceptors

        We've got to assume the Israelis have the state of the art now...is this as good as it gets? Seems like it should be better, given what we had in 1991...I know Hamas isn't launching big fat slow SCUDS, but even so, technology has just gotten so much more precise & fast. I wonder if the intercept rate would be higher if Hamas didn't use DIY rockets among

        • by dbIII (701233)

          I know Hamas isn't launching big fat slow SCUDS, but even so, technology has just gotten so much more precise & fast

          Not the stuff Hamas has, it's very old technology that makes a SCUD look like something out of Science Fiction. They started off with stuff the Shah bought in the 1970s which Iran was giving away as being useless for Iranian purposes. They have moved on to cheap knockoffs off the same old technology. Since they get the stuff for free (via Saudi's etc stumping up the cash) and are trying

    • He has no access to the system. He has no access to radar logs. He has no access to destroyed rockets, etc. He has some pics and a PowerPoint presentation.

      I see.

  • Maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @12:14AM (#47505335)

    Postol has a long history opposing any form of missile defense. While his assessment may well be correct, it should be viewed with considerable skepticism until data from opposing viewpoints is examined against his. Postol's view can be summaraized as: "No missile or rocket defense can work, therefore we should not try."

    • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @12:57AM (#47505471)

      Actually his assessment is simply based on a false premise.

      What performance characteristics make a rocket defense effective? To successfully intercept an artillery rocket of the type Hamas has been firing, an Iron Dome interceptor must destroy the warhead on the front end of the rocket. If the Iron Dome interceptor instead hits the back end of the target rocket, it will merely damage the expended rocket motor tube, basically an empty pipe, and have essentially no effect on the outcome of the engagement. The pieces of the rocket will still fall in the defended area; the warhead will almost certainly go on to the ground and explode.

      The Iron Dome's purpose is not to destroy the rockets mid-flight, its to protect the population centers. If the rocket is damaged and blows up a parked tractor in the farm field, mission accomplished. If the rocket is damaged and falls on an empty farm house, mission accomplished. If the rocket is damaged and falls on a school, ok yeah we can call that a failure.

      • by Rei (128717)

        Iron Dome isn't designed to hit rockets in the boost phase; when it hits them, the motor is not in operation. You could turn 90% of the rocket into swiss cheese, if you don't hit the warhead it's still going to explode when it comes down, and it's going to come down right where it otherwise would have (the Iron Dome interceptors work by shrapnel, not by concussive force that could push a rocket onto a different trajectory)

    • Postol has a long history opposing any form of missile defense. While his assessment may well be correct, it should be viewed with considerable skepticism until data from opposing viewpoints is examined against his. I don't care about that, because someone opposed to missile defense can still have a good argument. I read his post with interest.

      Unfortunately, his data isn't very good. He starts with a hypothesis on how the missile defense system works, then proceeds to show that if his hypothesis is correct, it is unlikely that the Iron dome is effective, based on data he analyzed in 2012 and photographs he's seen since then. I shouldn't need to explain why I see that as unconvincing.

      There's always room to doubt official figures, but I'd like to see something a little more convincing than that from a story with this kind of headline. It was just a longer explanation of what he said previously, he didn't produce any more data, unfortunately.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @12:25AM (#47505387)

    His perspective is that success requires in-air destruction of the warhead. That is not what the system is designed to do. No system has successfully hit warheads in the air with any frequency. Second, Postol (and Lloyd and others) assert that the falling warheads aren't large enough to do damage. But mortar shells do substantial damage and then contain, even using Postol's numbers, perhaps 1/20th the TNT. That's enough to blow big holes and kill a lot of people. Where are the holes? Where is the structural damage to buildings? Where are the casualties?

  • by David_Hart (1184661) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @12:40AM (#47505425)

    It seems that Ted Postol defines a successful intercept as one where the opposing warhead is completely destroyed in mid-air and doesn't count a rocket being damaged enough to be knocked down over an area where it can detonate harmlessly. He also relies on personal and public photos and reports to draw his conclusions. This would miss a good portion of the rockets fired as most are fired at night, when photographing rockets and interceptions are much more difficult.

    I'm not going to argue that he is right or wrong. It just seems to me that his extrapolations are not based on enough factual evidence to draw a conclusion with any amount of confidence.

    It would be cool to find out just what the real statistics are. I'm pretty sure, though, that Israel classifies this information as a state secret and we may never know in our lifetimes.

    • I did RTFA, and he makes two real claims. His primary claim is that the iron dome system must be failing, because when the interceptor approaches the target from anything other than head on, the interceptor will fire its warhead at the wrong time. He implies that this failure is an inevitable consequence of geometry, but I don't see it. If you actually look at the diagrams, the interceptor has just a good a shot when approaching (say) from behind as from in front. In fact the odds look better to me from beh
    • by willy_me (212994) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @02:08AM (#47505669)

      It would be cool to find out just what the real statistics are. I'm pretty sure, though, that Israel classifies this information as a state secret and we may never know in our lifetimes.

      The rockets generate more psychological damage then physical. As far as weapons go, they are rather pathetic. All the iron dome really has to do is to make those it protects feel safe. If statistics have the potential of damaging this feeling of safety then you ca be assured that they will be kept secret.

      The other purpose of the iron dome is to limit the desire to fire the rockets in the first place. If one thinks their efforts are in vain then they are less likely to follow through. If Israel can convince members of Hamas that their rockets are not working then there will be fewer rockets launched at Israel.

      • During World War II Japan unleashed swarms of explosive laden balloons. The hope was that the balloons would flow into the US and cause a big of damage here and there. If you were to believe the lack of coverage in the US news we were completely unaware of any such threat and clearly the balloons were simply floating elsewhere or falling short. In reality they were in fact reaching the US and occasionally causing a little mayhem here and there--but a concerted propaganda operation kept it out of the

        • by Calinous (985536)

          They wanted to create wild fires - unfortunately, and without the Japanese knowing, it was the wettest summer of the century (or one of the wettest) in USA.

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @12:46AM (#47505435)

    Why should anyone believe a person with a clear agenda, no access and no evidence?

    Wake me up when you have actual data to collaborate your (conspiracy) theory Israel's estimates are lies.

    Israeli's collect the rockets and rocket parts they are able to find. The answer is knowable and evidence obtainable. Have you even tried?

    • Why should anyone believe a person with a clear agenda, no access and no evidence?

      That was my thought too... except I'd have added "and whose report contains so many assumptions, incorrect statements, and weasel words that even if I was inclined to believe the guy I'd be skeptical".

  • Doubtful (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    My parents are both in Israel. I go there frequently. Since the start of the rocket attacks I have talked with them daily. I can tell you Iron Dome works. Otherwise there would be far more destruction to property. Yes there are bomb shelters. I can tell you in Tel Aviv many people don't bother to go to them when the sirens go off. My dad says more people get hurt running to the bomb shelters because they trip/fall/etc. than from bombs.

    Iron Dome is highly effective. Without it there would be not only signifi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:02AM (#47505489)

    Don't tell anyone, but Iron Dome causes autism because it contains gluten! It's all part of a secret Illuminati plot, of course...

    (Seeing as I live in Rishon Le Ziyyon, and watch interceptions every single day, and hear the distinctive sound of an interception (as opposed to a rocket hitting a building) several times a day, I reckon that the esteemed Mr. Postol would do well to loosen up his foil hat a bit)

  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @01:02AM (#47505491) Homepage Journal

    The way he defines success and failure is framed to say all missile defense fails [redstate.com].

    Iron Dome uses a combination of a proximity (radar activited) fuse and fragmentation. Sometimes the interceptor destroys the warhead. Sometimes it causes an explosion of the propellant which destroys the warhead. Sometimes it simply breaks the incoming missile or rocket into segments or destroys its ability to follow its planned ballistic path. According to Lloyd and Postol, if the warhead isn’t destroyed the interceptor failed.

    You don’t need a Ph.D. to see the immense flaw in this logic: if someone fires a missile at you and you aren’t hit that is good news.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      Sometimes it simply breaks the incoming missile or rocket into segments or destroys its ability to follow its planned ballistic path. According to Lloyd and Postol, if the warhead isnâ(TM)t destroyed the interceptor failed.

      That assumes that a certain degree of accuracy is needed by the incoming missile. If the target is "somewhere within a 10 mile radius" and the missile is knocked off course by a couple of miles, then the missile is likely successful.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Sometimes it simply breaks the incoming missile or rocket into segments or destroys its ability to follow its planned ballistic path. According to Lloyd and Postol, if the warhead isn’t destroyed the interceptor failed.

      You don’t need a Ph.D. to see the immense flaw in this logic: if someone fires a missile at you and you aren’t hit that is good news.

      These are unguided rockets, not cruise missiles. They aren't targeted at a person or home, they are targeted at entire neighborhoods or city regions. If a rocket is heading to a neighborhood across town and iron dome disables the rocket and forces it down in your neighborhood, is that a "win"? destroying the warhead limits the damage, but even falling rocket debris can cause injury and damage.

      If the 5% figure is right then it takes around $1.6M worth of $80K interceptors to stop each $800/rocket. Is that

    • by amosh (109566)

      Linking to an article that uses a sentence like this:

      "This is just stupidity but it is common of the combination of ideology driven faux-science (see manmade global warming) and gaslighting that the left relies upon to influence public policy."

      is probably not going to convince me that POSTOL is the ideological nutcase here.

  • The professor is saying that if the warhead is no destroyed the intercept fails. That's nonsense. If you knock it off course or cause it to fall off target then it succeeded.

    Furthermore, the statistics seem to suggest that SOMETHING is stopping the missiles because we have fairly reliable figures on the number of missiles fired and the number of missiles that landed in populated areas. We also have stats from previous bombardments... comparing the two we can see a huge difference. So why is that? Is the sug

    • Are the rockets even targeted? And if they are, are they accurate enough that knocking it off course is a good thing?

      • by aybiss (876862)

        Well, they constantly claim that the rockets are targeted at schools or whatever - are they just pushing them there themselves?

      • by Begemot (38841)

        Even if they are not precisely targeted they can hit something by mistake. Also, Iron Dome is set up to intercept only rockets that have chance to hit a real target in Israel. For instance if Hamas launches a rocket towards some Palestinian target (by mistake or deliberately), the Iron Dome won't stop it.

  • ... it works for about 100%

    and my point is: without clear evidence, both this and Postol's statements are equally Ill-founded.

    Ted, shall we compromise on (100+5)/2?

  • Picture manipulation (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @03:35AM (#47505899)

    First evidence from the article is shown in figures 4 and 4a
    "Figure 4 and figure 4A show the consequences of a failure in the fuse timing ... As can be seen by inspecting the photograph in figure 4, there is significant damage in the area where the rocket fell. This damage was almost certainly due to the detonation of the rocket’s small warhead."

    However, the figure is a cropped version of an image taken from Ynet article
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4541542,00.html
    and the picture title is "The shrapnel that hit the Tel Aviv synagogue.".

    As clearly seen in the full picture, there is very little damage that is easily explained by a steel tube falling through the roof. The picture clearly shows that there were no explosion. This was the only direct evidence of Iron Dome failure that is provided by the article. This "evidence" is malicious manipulation of an image that is easily available online.

    The images and more facts can be found in
    http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?239702-An-Explanation-of-the-Evidence-of-Weaknesses-in-the-Iron-Dome-Defense-System
    Since slashdot is not very graphics friendly ...

  • claims during the First Gulf War. George H. Bush early in the conflict claimed that the missile was 41 of 42 against scuds. Later analysis showed that the success rate may have been less that 10%.

  • The point? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495)

    The Iron Dome is designed to stop Iranian ballistic missiles tipped with Chemical, biological and in the future nuclear weapons. The fact that it has trouble hitting Hamas's glorified model rockets doesn't make it any less effective in its true mission. And eve if it really was only 5% effective, I'd take 5% less ballistic missiles headed at my town thank you.

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