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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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  • by synir ( 731266 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {lednakra}> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:12AM (#42039493)
    I'm not saying Israel's defenses don't work (I've no reason to think that) but given the timing do you think we'd be told

    a) If the defenses didn't work well at all
    b) About all the instances the defenses failed to work?

    Given the circumstances what we hear *especially* from official sources on either side of this conflict should be taken with quite a grain of salt.
  • Re:Too bad... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:12AM (#42039495)
    So the Palestinians launch missiles at Isreal and you are upset that Isreal is pissed off about it and launches counter attacks? If Canada started launching rockets at the US, I would expect us to invade and conquer them in short order. I'm surprised that Palestine has been allowed to exist as long as it has.
  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:16AM (#42039541)

    You need to 1) detect the launch 2) determine the trajectory 3) determine the speed 4) determine a few other factors (mass? range? payload? whether it's capable of changing trajectory mid-flight?) 5) calculate where it's going 6) determine if that counts as a populated area 7) fill in any missing variables 8) make a decision 9) direct the defense

    How fast could you do this? What if there's a hundred rockets coming in at once? It's not like a dumb bomb that's dropped straight down on a given point.

  • Re:Too bad... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:17AM (#42039553)

    Yes, both parties are at fault for continuing this ridiculous feud. But is America blockading and occupying Canadian land to begin with? No.

    And yes, I'm surprised that Palestine has been allowed to exist as long as it has considering the United States really doesn't give a damn about the fact that Israel continues to bulldoze their homes down for their own settlements.

    Let's make it clear, I condone the actions of Hamas but Israel's actions are very heavy-handed in proportion to Hamas' attacks/

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:21AM (#42039603)


    The shitbox unguided bottle rockets that the Muslims are terrorising Israel with, aren't coming in that fast, and can be cheaply and easily intercepted.

    On the other hand, strategic weapons, like nuclear-armed reentry vehicles (which are hypersonic and can actively manoeuvre), are virtually unstoppable. Nothing under Heaven and Earth can stop these things in terminal phase.

    MAD might be around for quite a while yet.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:22AM (#42039623)

    So the Palestinians launch missiles at Isreal and you are upset that Isreal is pissed off about it and launches counter attacks? If Canada started launching rockets at the US, I would expect us to invade and conquer them in short order.

    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.

    I'm surprised that Palestine has been allowed to exist as long as it has.

    You are either an excellent and crafty anti-Israel troll or an incredibly ill-informed person.

  • Am I the only one? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zibodiz ( 2160038 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:23AM (#42039645)
    Reading the comments, it seems I'm the only one here who thinks this is awesome. When it comes to weapons development, this is exactly the sort of weapon we should be cheering for. Whether you agree with the ones using it or not, this is a wonderful thing. A weapon which only works as a shield to block incoming attacks; that is what the weapons used by enlightened countries should have evolved into.
  • Re:Too bad... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:32AM (#42039769)

    This same hamas threw fatah members from high floors of buildings when the won their fair elections. I'm not sure elections are supposed to end that way

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#42039805) Journal
    I think MIRV technology [] makes this impossible. I remember reading this from a book by McNamara but Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

    Thus, in both a military and an economic sense, MIRVs render ABM systems less effective, as the costs of maintaining a workable defense against MIRVs would greatly increase, requiring multiple defensive missiles for each offensive one. Decoy reentry vehicles can be used alongside actual warheads to minimize the chances of the actual warheads being intercepted before they reach their targets. A system that destroys the missile earlier in its trajectory (before MIRV separation) is not affected by this but is more difficult, and thus more expensive to implement.

    Even if you made an iron dome for ballistic nuclear warheads, who ever is firing them at you is just going to make them split right before they hit your interceptor kill zone. And then you'll have less time to act or deploy your interceptors and a random number at each entry point. Could you take out some of them? Sure but it's a clam shell game.

    I'm pretty sure Hamas isn't using MIRV technology and the Israelis have developed this Iron Dome tech to stop this specific kind of attack. Not ICBMs with complex nuclear payloads.

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

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:39AM (#42039861)

    That analogy works if and only if you consider Palestinians to be more indigenous than Israelis.

  • Re:Murder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:42AM (#42039897)

    Palestinians are Christian too.

    Are we now separating them into good Palestinians and bad ones?

    Kill all the Muslims and let the Christians live? Or just kill them all.

    I'll wager the ones firing missiles at Israel are all Muslims. The 0.3% left [] after their victimisation by the Muslims are keeping well out of it. Of course every effort should be made to minimise casualties of all non-combatants, but you cannot just let someone keep firing rockets at you because they set up in a populated area. That would just reward the Muslims for their disregard of international law and human rights

  • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:42AM (#42039901)

    Not to mention that destroying a nuke over a populated area still lets it do significant damage in the long term.

    Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't. These nukes have a lot of safety features packed into them. You certainly wouldn't want it to do a high atmosphere detonation because its EMP will have far reaching effects (satellites could be destroyed), and because it may cause a chain reaction with other missiles in the general vicinity. The worst case is that it may rain down some fissionable materials over who knows where. Its unlikely to cause a detonation, especially since these detonations have to be very controlled to create fission.

  • by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:43AM (#42039939)

    It's trickier than it sounds. For one, you need good radar to pick those things up and accurately track them. You need to track it long enough to know its trajectory, but not so long that you are left with no time to respond. Then, you have to get your missile to the rocket, correcting for Wind and a possible new trajectory (we are talking about crude rockets, so they can't be too stable).

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:50AM (#42040009)
    Here's a random question for some knowledgeable person: how much of that $100,000 cost per interceptor is overhead? I realize that missiles aren't simple things, but that strikes me as way out of line with what it would actually cost to build one of these.

    That goes for other missiles as well - you always hear about Tomahawks, etc., costing $1 million+, how much do they actually cost to build?
  • by uchian ( 454825 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:11AM (#42040329) Homepage
    I remember how during the gulf war the patriot system was being lauded on news sites as being fantastically accurate, taking out most missiles before they landed, etc.

    Only turned out later that it wasn't so accurate.

    I'll give it a couple of years before I conclude whether the accuracy reported in the new system is just propaganda or not.
  • Re:You disgust me. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:20AM (#42040489)

    Palestine is a name given to a piece of land, where modern Israel now exists.

    The name was given to it by the Romans, and it was named after the Philistines, who are a people of Aegean decent (Modern Greece).
    Find more here:

    There were never Arab people called Palestinians before the deceleration of the state of Israel in 1948.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:32AM (#42040653)
    I think the Palestinians would readily agree to one, it's their leadership that's the problem. Bill Clinton had a deal worked out between the 2 sides back in the 90s... Israel would declare Palestine was a state, in return Palestine would recognize Israel as a state. At the last minute Arafat backed out of the deal claiming Israel was not a legitimate state, and they'd drive them into the sea. It's kind of like your drunk friend that declares he's not going down without a fight and charges the cops that raided your party. He just ends up hog tied and in the back of a van... along with everyone else at the party. Every time you talk the police into removing your cuffs your frined freaks out and starts spitting at the cops again. Doesn't matter if the cops are right or wrong... Some times you just need to suck up your pride.
  • by Copperhamster ( 1031604 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:33AM (#42040663)

    Actually, it's more complicated than that, and that's the reason that the defense system was considered 'provocative'. It's also the reason the US and USSR arsenals were so 'over the top'.
    (I read a book by someone involved with the so called 'nuclear calculus' of MAD a few years ago and assuming he wasn't lying through his teeth, it's interesting)
    Let's say you want to nuke, say, Perth in Australia and remove it from the map. Without using the really really big ones, which were never deployed much really, you are talking about 6-10 mid 80s grade warheads. Let's say 10.
    Now if you want to land 10 warheads on Perth, in the mid 80s, you need to plan to launch 18-25 or so at it.
    The book went into the details of why.
    Now because of some of those details, let's say that Australia deployed an ABM system that can stop 33% of the warheads that complete their ascent stage and separate from their missiles. We're not talking about shooting down the missiles themselves, just the warheads after they separate. (Interesting note, as of 80s grade tech, boosted fission weapons were fully 'fail deadly' and could detonate at full yield when struck by an interceptor weapon, before that weapon could destroy the hardware. Full Fusion weapons would probably 'fizzle' producing a much lower yield explosion than they were rated for.)
    Based on his math, which was complex but did follow, assuming the underlying assumptions were correct, in order to turn Perth into a crater you now need to launch 60-80 warheads at it.
    To get a 'for sure' 10 warhead kill.
    Now when MIRVs were in style that doesn't seem like so much with a dozen warheads on each missile except that an iron clad rule was that those warheads each had to come off a separate missile. Because a lot of the reason for needing so many warheads was the assumption that a good percentage of those missiles carrying them would never make it to separation stage.
    Add to this the fratacide problem of warheads. Any warhead hitting Perth within 'a short time (which he couldn't give exacts of because it was classified, but indicated it was longer than 3-4 minutes)' of any particular detonation would be killed by it's own brother explosion before it detonated. (And nuclear detonation waves were one of the few things fast enough to kill, for example, a boosted fission weapon before it could set itself off). So if you launched 60 warheads at Perth, not only do they all have to come from different missiles, but you have to plan for them to land over a at least a 4 hour period. Which allows the ABM system to be more effective because you can't swamp it with everything you have in one big go and, assuming Australia has deployed it's own nuclear weapons, also allows them to strike back at your missile launching fields and command and control facilities. Which means you need to target even MORE warheads at Perth if you want to evaporate it.

    The Big Deal here is not that 'oh heck we may only lose half our country in a nuclear war woopie!'
    The Big Provocative Deal here is that once you have that 33% kill shield in place it requires a massive expenditure of warheads on the enemies part to really for sure kill you completely. Suddenly things are not MAD and now you have to worry about 33% shield country launching conventional ground invasions of parts of your territories or spheres of influence, feeling more sure that you won't escalate the conflict to the nuclear stage because suddenly you can't ensure the destruction of the other side, when they still have the ability to annihilate you.
    Now you may ask who would be insane enough to risk that nuclear war that wipes out only half their own country, given the rest of the situation, and my answer would Godwin the thread. Also, the USSR thought Reagan was that far off the rails as well. Who's to say who else would have risked such a level of brinksmanship.
    90% would be enough for a country to act pretty much with impunity against anyone except the really big nuclear players, without fear of major nuclear damage. The thought

  • Re:You disgust me. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:30AM (#42041681)

    At some point you have to stop living with the past and deal with the people living in the middle east right NOW. I can hardly justify rocket attacks on communities of Israelis who had no part in taking the land in the first place half a century ago.

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

    by mr.mctibbs ( 1546773 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @12:56PM (#42043099)
    Buffer zone? That's good. For any German readers out there: that translates to Lebensraum.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"