Mar 13, 2012 Spacewar.com (UPI)
Tel Aviv, Israel - Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is looking to export its Iron Dome counter-rocket system because of its high interception rate against a four-day onslaught by
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
"The Iron Dome system has proved to a major game-changer in the most recent round of conflict with Islamist terror organizations operating in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip," The Jerusalem Post
crowed in an editorial Tuesday.
"Israel will be able to profit from Iron Dome, which has proved itself in combat, by selling it to other countries."
Foreign sales, potentially worth several billion dollars, would help the financially strapped Israeli government fund production of such systems to counter an unprecedented missile threat that
will target Israelis cities.
The United States, which has provided some $400 million toward developing and producing Iron Dome since 2007, India, South Korea and some NATO members have expressed interest in acquiring the
The military boasted that the three Iron Dome batteries deployed in the southern Negev Desert knocked out close to 90 percent of the short-range Qassam and longer-range, Soviet-designed Grad
rockets launched toward Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon from Friday through Monday.
The military said a fourth battery will be deployed soon. Nine batteries are scheduled for deployment by mid-2013.
The Israeli air force, which operates all air-defense systems, says 20 batteries are needed to provide effective cover for the entire country.
Until the latest surge of fighting on the border with Gaza, Iron Dome's interception rate was around 75 percent following its first operational deployment in March 2011.
The military said that the battery protecting Beersheba allowed two Grad rockets through Sunday because of what it described as a "technical failure in one of the system's components."
One hit an empty school and the other blew up a parked car in a residential neighborhood, although no casualties were reported.
That prompted Col. Tzvika Haimovich, of the air force's air defense division, to downplay the high expectations of the Israeli defense establishment that Iron Dome is a wonder weapon that can
provide 100 percent protection.
"Iron Dome has many components and in spite of its technical achievements, it has technical failures," Haimovich said, echoing what many critics of the system have long maintained.
"I have to say, there is no hermetic seal and so only a combination of Iron Dome and civilians adhering to the Home Front Command's directives will be able to maximize the defense arch."
Iron Dome, designed to intercept rockets and missiles with a range of 2.5-43 miles, locks on to those that the system's computer plots will impact in populated areas or strategic facilities.
The system ignores projectiles whose trajectories point to open ground.
The military said some 230 Qassams, manufactured in makeshift factories in Gaza's labyrinthine urban sprawl, and the Russian-made 122mm Grad battlefield rockets smuggled in from Egypt, were fired
into Israel during the recent clashes.
Iron Dome shot down more than 40 of those it engaged.
The Grads were the Israelis' main concern because they can reach the urban areas and carry a more destructive warhead than the Qassams.
Haimovich conceded that Iron Dome was "stretched to the max" in terms of its capabilities but was protecting larger areas than before.
But this begs the question whether the system, if it's stretched coping with 200-plus missiles over four days, will be able to effectively counter the massive barrages Israel's military chiefs
anticipate from Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian hardliners in Gaza if all-out war breaks out.
Iron Dome is the bottom tier of a planned four-level Israeli air defense shield, with state-owned Rafael's David's Sling, under development, handling the medium-range missiles and Arrow 2 and 3
missiles, produced by Israel Aerospace Industries, the ballistic missiles in Iran and Syria.
Israel estimates that Hezbollah alone has up to 45,000 rockets and missiles.
During the 34-day 2006 war, when Israel first grasped the extent of the missile threat it faces and scrambled to seeking defensive systems, Hezbollah fired 3,900 projectiles into northern Israel,
an average of some 120 a day.
In the nightmare scenario now envisaged by the military, Israel faces being hammered by up to 400 a day for several weeks.