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The Military Technology

Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense Shield Actually Works 861

Hugh Pickens writes "Sarah Tory reports that the debut of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense shield has added a new element to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza strip, one that military officials are calling a 'game-changer.' Israeli officials are claiming that the shield is destroying 90 percent of missiles and rockets it aims at that have been fired into southern Israel by Hamas. This level of success is unprecedented compared with older missile defense systems such as the American-made Patriot model used during the 1991 Gulf War. The missile-defense system can detect rocket launches and then determine the projectiles' flight paths and only intercepts rocket or artillery shells if they are headed for populated areas or sensitive targets; the others it allows to land. It takes a lot of raw computing power to rapidly build a ballistic profile of a fast-incoming projectile, make a series of quick decisions concerning potential lethality, and launch a countermeasure capable of intercepting said projectile in-flight. One reason Iron Dome is showing a much more robust capability than the Patriot system did is simply that its battle control hardware and software are several generations more advanced than those early interceptor systems. 'Israeli officials point out that Iron Dome saves money despite the fact that the interceptors cost up to $100,000 each,' writes Tory. 'The cost of rebuilding a neighborhood destroyed by a rocket attack — not to mention people wounded and lives lost — would be far greater than the cost of the interceptor.' Most important, the system buys Israel time, allowing it to plan out an appropriate response without the political pressure that would be generated by hundreds of potential deaths."
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Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense Shield Actually Works

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  • both sides (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LinuxGrrl ( 123916 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:10AM (#42039471) Homepage

    Anyone else thinking they should deploy it on the Gaza side too? Not instead (I know people will misread me). As well.

  • by concealment ( 2447304 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:11AM (#42039479) Homepage Journal

    You mean that SDI might work after all?

    That will get us out of the nuclear age. A stop rate of 90% eliminates a first strike advantage.

    But what's going to replace mutually assured destruction (MAD) when the destruction isn't assuredly mutual?

    These missile shields could bring us closer to nuclear war, or end it forever when the party with the shield tells everyone else to drop their nukes or vanish in sparkly glowing fireballs.

  • Murder (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:11AM (#42039483)

    The assault on the Gaza concentration camp is MURDER.

  • Re:Accuracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:12AM (#42039491)

    Miscalculation? Mechanical error in the defense? I imagine the margin of error is relatively significant just because it does all of this on the fly, so the best way to get a quick enough response is to guess at a few things.

    Given what it's doing, however, I'd say 90% is pretty damned good.

  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:20AM (#42039589)

    No, 90% still isn't enough to stop MAD between superpowers, although it might be effective against smaller aggressors (IE: Hamas). If you launch 50 nukes at each city, half of the cities will still be destroyed. 100 nukes at each cities and 90% will be destroyed. That's well within the capabilities of the US and Russia and probably other first-world nuclear powers as well. The sheer number of missiles will still overwhelm any defense. You'd need at least three or four nines effectiveness at a minimum to prevent MAD.

  • Re:Too bad... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:20AM (#42039593) should REALLY read even a tiny bit of Middle Eastern history before making comments like that...also, rely on at least one non-US feed for your do yourself a disservice otherwise.

  • by anti-pop-frustration ( 814358 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:22AM (#42039629) Journal
    Best missile defense shield : peace treaty.
  • Re:Too bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Formalin ( 1945560 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:23AM (#42039647)

    A better example would be if American Indians, subjugated and embargoed on their reservation, started rocket attacks on the US.

  • by rmstar ( 114746 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:26AM (#42039687)

    Does it really take so much computing power to calculate trajectory of a falling object?

    It's not a falling object, it has a rocket engine.

    You have to estimate acceleration, correct for mistakes, compute a plausible trajectory for it, compute a plausible trajectory for the interceptor, and since it involves objects moving at high speeds, it all has to be very accurate. You probably have a lot of crappy data sources to aggregate (radar, optical, etc) and things like wind and coriolis effects to take care of.

    The optimal control problems involving launching and controlling the interceptor are already hard to write down on paper, and solving them numerically is far from trivial. And it all has to be done in real time.

    In sum, it wouldn't surprise me if they had a 500-core, state-of-the-art supercomputer crunching the numbers.

  • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:33AM (#42039785)

    If your enemy respects treaties, sure. But it's islamists who are we talking about here. They are literally COMMANDED to lie to "infidels" by their holy book.

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#42039807)

    Reading the comments, it seems I'm the only one here who thinks this is awesome.

    I think that the difference is that other people are taking the line of thought that something more awesome than a weapons system like Iron Dome is not needing it in the first place, and that the increase of hostilities in the middle could have scary consequences.

  • by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#42039809)

    It's not just calculating a trajectory. I'm not an expert, but I assume it involves at least:

    1. Detection - multiple layers of detection systems such as
            - radar
            - IR
            - computer vision / pattern recognition AI
                  all of these have to work in unison to produce a high detection ratio and eliminate false positives
    2. Tracking
            - tracking the object during its flight path using the aforementioned systems
    3. Projection
            - thinking ahead of where the object is likely to strike, a small part of this is the "trajectory calculation"
    4. Threat assessment
          - use projection data to assess the strategic value of impact location
    5. Fire control
            - make decision to intercept, if positive
            - allocate the most appropriate platform
            - check airspace / final safety assessments
            - send warnings / signals / fire confirmation

    All of this has to happen within seconds.

  • Re:Missile Command (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:37AM (#42039833)

    The moment they start using guided missiles, you can bet Iran and co. will be moved to the top of the list of bombing targets. It's hard to prove that a crummy hand-made rocket was made with help from someone else, but it's easy to prove that a large rocket came from somewhere else. Not to mention that it's hard to smuggle something of the size into Gaza.

  • Re:Too bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:38AM (#42039849)

    Heavy-handed? Try showing restraint when your backyard is being targeted by rockets.

  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:42AM (#42039909) Homepage
    It really is a triumph of human intelligence and there's a LOT of combined science and technology employed in this solution. It demonstrates the sort of ingenuity that happens in a highly cooperative intellectual landscape, when one puts aside their malicious intent, and thinks more on the need to protect rather than to kill. Combined, great minds can do great things. It's a shame too often great minds are wasted on revenge and retaliation, egos and avarice. Ethical intelligence is true intelligence.
  • They (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:42AM (#42039929) Journal

    They have been fighting for about 2k years. Surely, it will be over soon.

  • You disgust me. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:46AM (#42039971)

    Heavy-handed? Try showing restraint when your backyard is being targeted by rockets.

    Israel stole land from the Palestinians. They then allowed their people to build "settlements" on other people's land.

    And you're condemning those people for fighting back?!? And obsolving Israel of any blame and condoning their complete over reaction?!?

    Israel has lost all sympathy from me.

    And people like you are going to keep this shit going on and on and on.

    Israel is just living with their own karma. Oh, well. Too fucking bad!

  • Re:Too bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lexman098 ( 1983842 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:54AM (#42040067)
    I really don't understand the argument against Isreal on this one. They've done a lot of wrong towards Palestinians, especially on the west bank side, but hundreds of rockets are being fired from Gaza targeting civilians. Isreal's assassination was a military target. Maybe they've killed some civilians in Gaza too, which is horrible, but at least accidental. They seem to avoid that when they can. Hamas is firing rockets directly at civilians. You have to see the difference.
  • Re:Too bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:01AM (#42040177)

    Only Jews would be dumb enough to try and live somewhere where everyone else fucking hates them, then act in a way to ensure that everyone continues to fucking hate them.

    Because they were treated SO WELL in Europe over the years?

  • Patriot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:06AM (#42040251)

    The Patriot missiles were known to occassionally follow their target to *its* target.

    Aside from just missing, another issue is that even if you hit the target, you need to make sure that your missile detonates when it makes contact with any part of the target.

    Finally, detection isn't perfect, trajectories are approximations at the time of launch. The missile needs to adjust using information collected in-flight.

  • NY Times Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:12AM (#42040351) Homepage

    NY Times article has more information than the top link, e.g.: "Iron Dome has successfully intercepted more than 300 rockets fired at densely populated areas, with a success rate of 80 to 90 percent, top officials said."

    So a bit lower percentage. Yet I'm skeptical of even that, because we have no independent verification, and officials are incented to cheerlead/bluff for things like this. Also note that it was about half paid for by the U.S. to the tune of about $900 million.

  • Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:13AM (#42040365)
    But they can't make it too efficient. Otherwise it would be hard to justify killing hundreds of Palestinians by shelling and bombing residential areas.
  • Re:Too bad... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jemenake ( 595948 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:30AM (#42040621)

    Well, if the US sent their military into Vancouver for "security" reasons, throwing out all the Canadians who lived there and allowed US citizens to build homes and "settle" the area and considering the US's superior military, I wouldn't blame Canada in the least for shooting rockets over the border.

    Exactly. At first, when you learn about a few Arab-instigated wars Israel has had to fight off, you have a little sympathy for their argument that they need Gaza, Golan, and the West Bank as buffer zones as well as a little punishment upon their aggressors, with the notion being that "You'll get this back when you've learned your lesson".

    But then you find out that they're displacing the people living in those areas and then just gifting that land to Israeli settlers and you're like "WTF?!?! How are they ever going to undo that? You can't just go to the settlers and say 'Okay. Time to come back home, we are giving that land back to the Palestinians...'".

    So, yeah... when Israeli's call those areas "buffer zones" or anything implying that they're temporary for as long as their neighbors are hostile toward them, I don't believe them for a second.

  • Re:Accuracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zig007 ( 1097227 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:44AM (#42040853)

    Which is why it's so hard for the rest of the world to not buy into the deluge of photos of dead children, supposedly from Palestine. I mean seriously, I've seen more photos of dead children than the official numbers stated. It seems anti-semitic propaganda is alive and well in 2012.

    Hm. I sure haven't.
    Then on the other hand, I treat ALL information in situations like this as propaganda, which means I do not trust the "semitic" information one iota more than the "antisemitic" kind.
    Additionally, the "semitic" information gatherers only has the information of the weapon systems and their operators, which, to put it mildly, usually leads to quite crappy and low estimates of the civilian casualties involved. So it is not only "anti-semitic" propaganda that is alive and well in 2012.

    The correct number is usually somewhere in between.
    Humanitary organisations are usually pretty close. And their numbers are horrendous enough.

    To not "believe" either side of a conflict at all, is a very dangerous path.
    Completely innocent people, including children, going about their normal life, are ALWAYS terribly hurt in conflict.
    Especially so when they have nowhere to run, which is the common case here.
    That is just a fact. Try go to a war torn area sometime and see for yourself.

  • Re:both sides (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:52AM (#42040981) Journal
    That depends--is anyone randomly lobbing unguided rockets into Gaza?
  • US Taxpayers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Graham J - XVI ( 1076671 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:18AM (#42041437) Homepage Journal

    ...must be overjoyed at helping fund this.

  • Re:Accuracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:30AM (#42041671)

    Israel IS a war-torn are, which you armchair commentators don't seem to be able to understand.

    Sure, people get hurt on both sides. But if we're the stronger party, it's not our fault. If they can't build hospitals fast enough, it's not our fault. If they can't organize a proper military or government, it's not our fault. It's THEIR fault for spending all their effort acquiring and firing rockets instead of working hard to bulid their own state. Israel was built by hard-working Jews, and if the Palestinians aren't civilized enough to do the same, it's NOT OUR FAULT.

    If they don't want their civilians to be killed in battle, then all they have to do is not start battles. When these unprovoked rockets enter our country, are we supposed to ignore them just because our military is bigger? That's an absurd proposition. They fire, we respond. It's as simple as that, anyone saying otherwise has anti-semitic agendas. Jews have a right to live, and retaliate when faced with aggression. Why can't the Palestinians go live in some other part of the Muslim world? 1.2 billion of them and they can't find homes? Jews want a homeland too, and Israel is ours. They have enough fucking countries of their own. It's not our fault if none of them can put together a decent economy or political structure. Saudi Arabia has plenty of space, and the government there gets just as much support from the US as we do.

    Muslims just want the Palestinians to suffer so they have someone to claim they are fighting for when they blow up towers in New York.

  • by Paladeen ( 8688 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:38AM (#42041823)

    Wow, real intelligent contribution you just made there.

    Obviously these crazy "islamists" are much more unreasonable than the kind-hearted Israelis, who are all good liberals, devoid of any fanaticism, religious bigotry and nationalism.

  • Re:Accuracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:49AM (#42042009)

    Well, in this case, Iron Dome doesn't have any effect on Palestinian dead, only Israeli dead and damage to Israeli neighborhoods. Presumably, Israel has facts and figures on it's own dead and destroyed property.

    Are they misreporting to make their own population feel safer? That is possible, although of a somewhat different quality than lying about killing Palestinians.

    I don't want Palestinians dead, but what do you do when people start shooting off rockets at your country? To some extent, the Palestinians need to control their own people or at least keep them from launching rockets at people somehow. Otherwise, it's a bunch of artillery strikes and rocket launches at inhabited areas on both sides.

  • by I. M. Bur ( 460890 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:53AM (#42042077) Homepage

    Actually you should look at the value of the target to be hit by the missile, not at the value of the missile to be intercepted. You can destroy infrastracture and equipment worth of millions of dollars with a single missile, not to mention that most of the stuff that is destroyed can't be replaced instantly. The $100,000 cost of the interceptor is small compared to that.

  • Re:Accuracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @12:18PM (#42042501) Homepage Journal
    There is something called "proportionality" too. Rocket attacks have taken exactly 28 lives since 2001. Compared to only the Christmas offensive in 2008 that killed over 1200 Palestinians. The planned attack is not because of rocket attacks, it is because there is an election coming up in Israel in about a month. Nothing improves the chances of an incumbent to be reelected as much as a fresh war to show he is tough on the "terrorists."
  • Re:Accuracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @02:15PM (#42044289)

    You see, this is what I don't understand about people looking at this. This isn't a numbers game. Yes, the Palestinians will eat the brunt of any casualties. Not only are they not represented by a military with a systematic defensive capability, their "military" doesn't even really care much for civilian casualties.

    Israel is going to have fewer casualties because they're going to be significantly better at preventing attacks on their people. That doesn't mean the threat is not real, nor does it mean that Israel should have to stand for random rocket barrages on their territory. Would there be a ground assault on Gaza if there were no rockets being launched? Of course not. So how is this about the Israeli election, other than the fact that the Israelis are being targeted at a time where everyone knows that they would want to respond strongly to any attack.

    I keep hearing about "proportional" response, but honestly, what does that do other than maintain the status quo? And how do you have a "proportional" response to weapons fired from civilian areas? Even the most surgical of strikes is going to hit civilians.

    I would like nothing better than for the Palestinians to have a normal economy and have peace, but honestly, it always seems like they have to keep poking Israel with rockets or attacks. And while many Palestinians do not support terrorists like Hamas, many do. I was just struck by reports of "spies" being dragged through the streets, while wondering if perhaps by giving good information for targeting, those same spies may have made it possible to save Palestinian lives by ensuring Israeli strikes are placed as accurately on rocket installations as possible.

    In the end, the Palestinians are pawns. They are not served by their so-called defenders, who are basically proxies for Iran and other regional troublemakers who want nothing more than to keep them a distraction so that the world does not turn its attention to their activities. It may be that the only way for them to save their lives is to realize that they exist only to garner sympathy for an otherwise unsympathetic Arab world.

  • Re:Murder (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @02:47PM (#42044747) Homepage

    What concentration camp? You mean the one with million dollar homes, and a 5-star hotel? Packed with full markets, and Iphone 5's, where the average person gets $60-80k USD in aid every year? Yeah...what a concentration camp. Imagine that, they even have their own and full sovereignty. And could import things as they saw fit, until they turned around and started shooting at Israel. Then both Israel AND Egypt closed the borders and imposed a blockade.

  • Re:Accuracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dentin ( 2175 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @03:36PM (#42045467) Homepage

    As a followup, I think those calling for a "proportional" response neglect the fact that ideology seriously skews what proportional means. How does one have a "proportional" response to a suicide bomber? How does one have a "proportional" response to rockets fired anonymously from densely populated civilian areas?

    Quite frankly, the only reasonable definition of "proportional" in these situations is "hurts the other side enough that they will think twice about doing it again". People condemn the Israelis for bulldozing the homes and towns of suicide bombers, for invading by ground, and for carpet bombing areas where rockets are shot from - but the simple fact of the matter is that it takes at least that level of force to get the attention of the extremists on the Palestinian side. Yes, it sucks, and yes, innocent people die, and yes, it's unfair. But "proportional" is in the mind of the attacker, not the mind of the defender, and lobbing rockets tit-for-tat back into Palestine just isn't going to cut it.

    That said, I think Israel has a serious problem with its religious nutjob haredim population. They are the primary driver of the idiotic Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and their extremism and growth as a political power is going to cause nothing but problems going forward. It's not impossible that they will get a political ruling majority in coming years, at which point any prospect of peace or a two state solution will be completely off the table.

    My preferred mechanism for dealing with the Israeli haredim extremists in the outer settlements is to finish building the wall on the 67 borders and cut them off from all support. Let them defend the land if they think they can. No government assistance.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351