Iron Dome explained – and why it is not a panacea

Find below a reblog from the Conversation‘s Raoul Heinrichs with friendly support of the Conversation webpage.

Explainer: Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system

By Raoul Heinrichs, Australian National University

The breakdown of an initial ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas last weekend played out to a familiar soundtrack: the wail of air-raid sirens and the menacing hiss of incoming rocket fire, followed in many cases by the concussive crackle of Iron Dome missiles intercepting their targets.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system first attracted attention two years ago, when it achieved between an 80-90% success rate.

But the sudden escalation of rocket attacks from Gaza in recent weeks, coupled with the success of Iron Dome in averting death and destruction by neutralising rockets headed for populated areas, has renewed interest in the system’s workings and wider strategic implications.

A ‘system of systems’

So how does Iron Dome operate? In the arcane lexicon of military technology, Iron Dome is a “system of systems” and comprises three principal components:

  1. a radar tracking station
  2. a control-centre
  3. up to three missile batteries.

Each component is responsible for a distinct phase of what military wonks call the “detect-to-engage” cycle. When a rocket is fired, it is detected in-flight by an advanced radar specially designed to track small, fast-moving objects.

That data is then passed via wireless connection to the control centre. Here, teams of Israeli military personnel assess the trajectory of the incoming rocket and determine whether or not it should be intercepted. Given the high cost of Iron Dome’s missiles, only those headed for populated areas are selected for interception.

When it’s necessary to intercept a rocket, a launch order is transmitted to the Iron Dome missile batteries, and a Tamir interceptor missile, using a sophisticated guidance system and information from the control-centre, is directed into the rocket’s path. The whole process takes between two to three minutes.

Iron Dome is capable of intercepting missiles launched from between four and 70km away.

Iron Dome was developed in just four years and has been in service since 2011. Surprisingly, the impetus for the project came not from Hamas.

Despite its prolific use of rockets in the years following Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Hamas rockets mostly fell harmlessly on sparsely populated Negev. So long as casualties remained low, and damage to property limited, the rockets were considered more a political nuisance than a national emergency.

The birth of Iron Dome

This perception was shattered in July 2006, with the outbreak of war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. What began as a terrorist attack on Israel’s northern border quickly escalated into an all-out exchange.

Over the course of a month, Hezbollah fired around 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, necessitating an expansive campaign of air-strikes, a blockade and a costly ground invasion. By the time Israeli forces eventually brought the rocket-attacks under control, the damage was done.

The daily barrages exacted a human and economic toll and dealt a serious blow to Israeli morale. Out of the recriminations which followed, Iron Dome was born.

The problem with rockets

For Hamas and Hezbollah, rockets have long been attractive. They are cheap, highly mobile and their use requires no great technical expertise.

Rockets can be launched at Israeli cities from inconspicuous locations well within friendly territory, without the need for air-superiority. Rockets are also readily available from Iran, a country determined to undermine Israeli security. Most importantly, rockets are effective at instilling terror amongst the populations against which they are directed.

An Israeli Iron Dome interceptor blasts apart a missile fired from the Gaza Strip.
EPA/Jim Hollander

There are two main reasons Iron Dome offers Israel incomplete protection. First, each Tamir missile costs Israel between US$50-90,000, compared with only a few hundred dollars apiece for the rockets they intercept. Given such a profound cost imbalance, a sustained rocket campaign could have a crippling effect on Israel’s defence budget.

Second, rocket attacks are effective regardless of whether they hit their targets. The disruption they cause is what matters most. Civilians still take cover as rockets approach. Sirens sound, which is frightening and humiliating. The mere possibility that rockets could cause death and destruction is enough to sow terror on the ground.

Despite its apparent success, Iron Dome does not represent a significant technological breakthrough in missile defence. The reasons are fairly straight-forward.

The kind of rockets Iron Dome can intercept only fly short distances. Lacking any meaningful guidance system, they fly slowly along a low, predictable arc and are relatively easy to track and destroy.

Long-range ballistic missiles, by contrast, leave the atmosphere and re-enter at supersonic speeds. While they also follow a parabolic arc, they can be assisted by decoys, multiple manoeuvrable warheads, and electronic counter-measures – and the difficulty of interception can be increased by the launch of additional missiles.

For these reasons, and despite an impressive 90% success rate, Iron Dome remains a stop-gap measure tailored to the specific circumstances in Israel and of questionable value elsewhere.

The Conversation

Raoul Heinrichs does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Syria: How to Survive a Revolution

According to Austrian Newspaper der Standard this document has been handed to Syrian Politologist  Radwan Ziadeh of George Washington University by unknown sources from the Syrian Government.

Syria: How to Survive a Revolution

It basically details how for the current Syrian Government on how to avoid a politican situation that is sliding more and more towards what we have been seeing in Egypt and Tunisia lately. No matter what its real source might be – I have no means of confirming this with other sources – it certainly makes brilliant, and also rather horrifying reading, especially if you take into account developments in Syria.

Pessakh Sameakh from Australia


Dogs that Bark …

Hello everybody,

When I read JPost this morning an article catapulted me right back into reality despite everything I felt like during the last week:

Ahmadinejad spoke Monday at a ceremony honoring the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

According to IRNA, Ahmadinejad said that “criminal and terrorist Zionist regime” with a track record of “60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes … has reached the end … and will soon disappear from the geographical” charts.  (source)

It’s not at all the casethat this’d be something new (yet I am not sure if Ahamdinedschad has already stated that the time that would happen would be “soon”) but more or less the opposite. Since 2005 the Iranian dictator has made speeches about Israel needing to be destroyed his most important hobby. Alongside with pushing his A-bomb development plans. And UN’s IAEO is doing quite close to nothing and hasn’t even managed to get those plants inspected as they are allowed, even obligated to, by international law.

Some people say it’s because of its boss, El-Baradei, being Egyptian and therefor Arabmaking him secretly wish for the elimination of Israel himself. But I don’t agree with conspiracy theories like that. Someone once told me that there’d be a mathematical calculation to prove that world conspiracies – like the Jews are suspected to on a regular basis – would be impossible because when the conspiracy and therefor the secret aligned with it reaches a certain (and rather small) number of accessories the propability of somebody giving it away comes close to 100%. And from all I have seen with people and their abilities to keep a secret I go along with that.

Yet the thing is that when it comes to Iran’s plans it’s not a secretand therefor not a conspiracy. Even less then in the Thrid Reich by the by (though I was told lately that I wasn’t to call it “Third Reich” for that’s how they called it themselves but rather “reign of the National Socialists” or something like that). The thing is that everybody knows it. Literally. Just go out to the streets and ask people if they know about Iran threatening to destroy Israel – but be prepared there might be people agreeing with it. However only a tiny number stands up to it and those are mostly so far left- or right-winged that no sane person feels like agreeing with them. Normal, non-extremists just don’t get their shit together. They just see and hear it again and again and again and say silly nonsense like “dogs that bark don’t bite”.

Really, the only thing history teaches man is that history teaches man absolutely nothing(M. Ghandi). Hitler wrote it all down in Mein Kampf [my struggle] long enough ahead of time for people to prevent him from doing so but nobody did. I guess a lot of them said just the same. Yet he did. And he did it exactly the way he had written it down. Still people all over Austria and Germany and even within the allied forces that wouldn’t stop or at least decelerate the Holocauste.g. by bombing the rail tracks leading to the concentration camps or the camps themselves, claimed “I didn’t know”. How many of them did have “Mein Kampf” standing right in the middle of their libraries? I mean literally everybody had that book back then!

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that I want to condemn the generation my grandparents belong(ed) to. I a lot of ways they didn’t have the possibilities. Or if so they didn’t know about them. As for my family we’re speaking about farmers and countryside-teachers and stuff like that. Those where humble, ignorant people who had never heard about civil disobedience and that where not used to responsibility that reached further then their homes or perhaps their village. They were raised with the idea of keeping politics to others and not interfering with them. You cannot compare them to modern people who can access every information just two clicks awayon the Internet and can use more or less anonymous chat rooms and Internet forums to communicate with each other and exchange ideas and plans. And as far as Austrians are concerned they didn’t even elect Hitler.

You can dispute a lot about the Anschluss of Austria in 1938. Could we have defended ourselves if we had tried to? I don’t know for I am not an expert on strategy and military related stuff. But if I have a look on the psychological condition of the nation at that time I doubt it. Austria was not a real democracy anymore but rather a dictatorship of its own (which was our own fault and if only because if that we for sure have to take responsibility) and the schism within Austria, between the Socialists and the Christian party was as deep as the Mariana Trench. Even if the military had been mobilized changes are half of it wouldn’t have answeredto whoever tried to take command. However I wouldn’t be sure the official reason of not mobilizing the army (“No Austrian blood shall be shad”) was what was going on in those people’s head. As noble and understandable as it would have been. The odds are just too good that the idea behind it was more of a political power issue.

Anyhow that was not what I wanted to write about here. But rather about responsibility. And to come back at 1945 Austrians I think if there is anything to blame them about it is that they haven’t learnt anything. That they didn’t have the balls to say “Oh shit, we have fucked up! We have fucked up completely and have ourselves allowed to be used for a damn genocide. Now we are gonna find out how in fucks name this can have happened and will prevent it in the future.” This, if you ask me, is the only responsibility that arises for people like me who have inherited a history that is not easy to deal with. Paying money to Israel talking something about how one has to support it is a nice excuse but it’s not the real thing. Nothing that will enable our children to stand in front of an international conference on history with their head raised saying “We have made the best out of history”.

However the rest of the world is no better. Half of the world made itself believe that Israel is some kind of a military miraclewhere a tiny country can fight a huge one like Iran – a fairy tale often including the US’s military support to Israel after just one call – and the rest of it? Well I guess the rest just retreats to the “dogs that bark …” tale. Or just doesn’t care. And let me guess what’s gonna happen if, may the gods forbid, there was a terrible war between Iran and Israel: “We didn’t know …” Yeah. Sure. Absolutely. It makes me wanna scream “Wake up guys! That maniak isn’t only willing to blow all of Israel up he well soon (?) also have the means to do so!”

Oh, and then there’s another one I strubled across that might fit into the picture:

“Handing over the Golan to Syria, would in effect mean the Iranians here, in the Golan Heights.” – Transporation Minister Shaul Mofaz (source)

Okay and now I am gonna cool myself down with some university work …

have an enlightening day,


just as usual

Hey there,

I have to cede that I grew a little tired of current Israeli and Middle Eastern Politics lately. In the end it’s just always the same. Some people dreaming of peace in the most wonderful words and so full of hope that one wants to believe it. Others state that there will never ever be peace at long as one or both parties were alive for hating each other was kinda breed into them. And Israel is holding more or less sincere peace talks with Syria which are said to include the possibility of a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights which in turn is used for pre-campaign PR by former and future Prime Ministers. Meanwhile still nobody could tell me why in all the world Syria would secretly investigate nuclear technology if she is so interested in an enduring peace with Israel.

That Israel still is a rather functioning democracy despite corruption is being ignored by most “outsiders” investigating the “conflict” just as usual. There it is just so easy for a single man to make commitments but in fact it of course isn’t easy at all as shown today. Perhaps we are just so used to  at least one party of a conflict – usually the “bad guys” – being a dictatorship where there are no such things as  different political parties or the population wanting to have a word at it.

And of course there’s Lebanon where Hizbullah (the guys that organized the 2006-attacks on northern Israel that eventually led to the summer 2006 Lebanon war) just earned veto power within the government and Fuad Siniora finally stepped back after having fought a really astonishing fight for his country. It is yet to be awaited whether the short-term stabilisation of Lebanon for the price of giving more power to Hizbullah and giving them the message “you can press us into things if you just scare us with another civil war” will prove expedient on the long run for both Lebanon and the whole region.

So much to keep you updated for the moment.



Peace that Radiates

Hi everybody,

So I guess it’s time for Middle East politics again.

This morning a headline at Austria’s ORF stroke me which I later also found at the New York Times and YNet yet for some reason no word about it at JPost’s or Haaretz’ homepages:

“CIA: Syrian reactor capacity was 1-2 weapons per year”

Do you remember that Syrian reactor? It’s the place in the middle of Syria’s nowhere where – as syrian officials put it so nicely – “Israel dropped ammunition” when “violating syrian airspace” on November 6th, 2007.

Of course it didn’t take very long, back then, until the whole issue started stinking. Stinking a lot to be precise, when Photos showed that Syria hurried to get rid of every small piece of whatever building used to be standing at that hill the IDF-planes “dropped ammunition” onto. And it wasn’t long until it was public knownledge that it had been no more no less then a nuclear reactor. One that unlikely was built for the reason of supporting the population with electricity but for one single yet simple reason: Laying hand on nuclear material that can be used for nuclear weapons or at least a dirty bomb.

United Nation’s IAEA’s reaction ought only to be touched here for I suppose everyone more or less into the matter of Israel’s and IAEA’s mutually loving relationship can picture it himself:

“the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the nonproliferation regime”

IAEA’s head, El Baradei statet. I – for my part – wouldn’t be surprised if El Baradei’s “process of verification” would have still been “in process” when Tel Aviv turned into a nice mushroom-cloud especially given the new piece of information that I guess El Baradei already had access to back then, proposing that Syria’s nuclear reactor was

within weeks or months of completion when it was destroyed in an air strike last September 6, and within a year of entering operation it could have produced enough material for at least one weapon. (source)

It really seems to me, right now, as if Iraq was the only country in the whole region that was not on the best way of developing weapons of mass destruction yet something there must have been way more frightening then with Syria obtaining WMD’s or Isarel would have had the US’s support with its IDF raid in September (though I guess she’s been better off without …)

And where it gets really funny – or just fit’s into the pattern perfectly where one has to choose whether to laugh or to cry – is when you have your morning-look at JPost and, being an innocent Middle European would think that Israel’s told Syria to go to hell with it’s peace talks when it’s in the same time developing a nuclear bomb one rather finds this:

According to the officials, one question being discussed in exchanges Turkey has carried between Jerusalem and Damascus over the last few months is what comes first, an Israeli announcement – in some yet to be determined from – regarding withdrawal from the Golan, or a Syrian announcement of ending support for Hamas and Hizbullah.

In a nutshells: “Peace talks” between Syria and Isreal to the point of Olmert seriousely suggesting Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights which are – by the by – the most ideal strategic start-off for any kind of invasion into Israel. Neither did Turkey, who’s into the middle east peace talk-business right now, tipp Syrians off on the question against whom the hell they were building nuclear bombs if they are so keen on peace – meaning a state of peaceful coexistence – with Israel. It just doesn’t matter too much though I suppose I am hardly the only person to whom it looks a little bit like Syria’s just been staging a little bit of peace talks so it can outrun the clock until her next nuclear factory’s built.

But this is the Middle east’s circus maximus which is obtained to entertain the whole world and where the civilian population is just as marginal as slaves killed by wild anymals and fighters in the Roman circus used to be. As sad as it is …


Talking to Hamas

Good morning everybody,

For sure you have heard about former US President and Nobel Peace Price Winner Jimmy Carter’s attempts to make friends with radical Hamas, Israel steaming with rage and the pro-Israeli Blogsphere cursing him for pretty much everything from treason to being an outright idiot.

Just as a background for those of you who are not into Isreali politics, for I know it can be rather bewildering. (Actually it still is are after you have read two newspapers a day for half a year): There are two major parties within the Palestine Authority (PA) – the Gaza-Strip and the Westbank – one of which being Fatah and the other one Hamas. Fatah is basically what came out of Arafat’s peace ideas after PLO. Hamas is what took PLO’s former place as a group on European Union’s list of “Terrorist Organisations”. Fatah is considered the one to talk to for they are at least willing to negotiate with Israel whilst Hamas has been conceived as off-limits for talks for it does not recognize the pure existance of medinat ysrael (the State of Israel). Unfortunately Hamas won the elections puttng a lot of states into a considerable dilemma: Do we give money to a registered terrorist organisation? Most didn’t or did only transfer money and goods to Fatah bypassing Hamas which – of course – led to rage within the Palestinian population who felt betrayed by the ‘Western World’ who had first pushed for elections and now didn’t respect their outcome and Hamas as an elected governing party of the PA.

In late spring 2007 the coallition between Hamas and Fatah broke in a rather bloody way: Hamas’ militias took control over the tiny Gaza strip by – literally! – hanging Fatha-members out on houses to dry. From that day on homemade Qassam rockets have been fired at Israel on a dayly basis yet Israel had back its prefered partner for negotiation – Fatah – in the Westbank.

Hamas since has been isolated. It seems like people would rather talk to al’Quaida then to Hamas. And this is where Jimmy Carter enters the stage meeting Hamas officials in Ramallah and publicly announcing that he wants to speak to Hamas and “get them into the peace process”. He even wanted to go to Gaza but was denied entry by Israel. But for there’s still enough other countries arround he is now going to meet Hamas’ Mahmud Sahar and Said Siam in Cairo in order to

“get him to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences, both with the Israelis … and also with Fatah. Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in the final peace agreement, they ought to be involved in the discussions leading up to … peace,”

Carted added:

“I’m just trying to understand different opinions and communicate … between people who won’t communicate with each other.”

Whilst I can understand people being out of their minds with rage, considering that Jimmy Carter led to the 1976 peace threaty between Israel and Egypt and him being a rather skilled diplomat I cannot help but think: “Let him have a try!” If he can make Hamas and Syria talk to Israel, why not? If not the whole world will have a place in the front row seeing that even when a Jimmy Carter made the effort Hamas wasn’t ready to talk. I think there should be no means untried to get Sderot out of fire and having a skilled senior diplomat talk to Hamas is less risky then taking back the whole strip by means of military force – which seems to slowly become the only alternative. After all one should assume Carter has some kind of an idea what he is doing and I cannot keep myself from admitting that an enduring peace for Israel (and Syria, and die PA) will have to involve not so easy to talk to parties as Hamas and Syria too.

Yet it is a risk since Palestinians are know for their very dramatic and great working public diplomacy. There has to be taken huge precausion that Sahar / Siam et al. don’t turn the publicity Carter gives to them into a strage where they might feature another issue of the well-known play of “How Israel is an Apartheid Regime and does an Holocaust to the Palestinian People”.

But then Carter isn’t new to the game either so he might be capable of seeing that problem, too. Plus for no one can stop him anyway – though a lot of people would certainly like to – being optimistic once more is the best solution I can see. In the end if Carter suceeds keeping one child alive – either Palestinian or Israeli – it’s already been worth it.