IDF’s Multi-Layer Missile Defense Systems: A 360° Look

The IDF has many ways to protect Israeli citizens from rocket fire–chief among them being the anti-missile defense systems. The technology was developed, together with the US Army, in order to combat the increasing missile and rocket proliferation of Israel’s enemies. Here’s a detailed look at the IDF’s three leading systems:

Iron Dome Missile Defense System

IDF's Iron Dome is on-call and ready.

1. Iron Dome

The first tier of Israel’s multi-layered defense system is the Israeli-developed Iron Dome system which was designed in response to the rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza. The Iron Dome system can determine where an incoming rocket will land,and intercept projectiles that pose significant threats in mid-flight .

The Iron Dome system has three main components:

  1. Tracking radar – locates the rockets and calculates landing site
  2. Battle management and weapon control system – operator’s seat
  3. Missile firing unit – fires an intercepting missile

The decision to build Iron Dome was made by the Ministry of Defense in 2007, following a particular turbulent year on Israel’s northern border with the Hezbollah terrorist organization during the Second Lebanon War.

Israel has also experienced numerous years of rocket attacks on its southern communities from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. In fact, most of the Iron Dome’s interceptions were of rockets from Gaza: last year alone 627 rockets were fired from Gaza.

So far in 2012, 65 rockets have been fired at Israel’s southern communities–an average of a rocket per day. In contrast to what Hamas claims, it is not a political organization; they are recognized by the US, EU, UN, Jordan and Israel as a terrorist group.  As such, they operate with the sole intention to destroy Israel as is outlined in their official charter.

Rocket-Damaged Synagogue in Ashdod

One of the many buildings damaged by Hamas rocket fire in Ashdod

2. The Patriot

The Patriot is an American surface-to-air missile system designed to intercept aircraft and mid-to-long range missiles. The Patriot system was designed in the 1960s, and the first operational battery was deployed by the U.S. military in 1984. It includes: a stationary launcher containing four Patriot intercepting missiles; a scanning radar; and an engagement control station which is the nerve center of the system.

American-made Patriot missile

Patriot Missile in-action. Source: cufi.com

Since its inception, the system has undergone a number of modifications to enhance its effectiveness based on the lessons learned over the years. In the early 1990s, following a process of upgrading the system, additional operational batteries were deployed in Israel.

3. The Arrow

The Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense System was developed in cooperation with the United States and has been operational since 2000. The system serves as Israel’s  primary long-range surface-to-air missile defense system. The Arrow missile can even intercept missiles outside the atmosphere, thereby preventing collateral damage from the interception.

The system uses advanced technology to identify and intercept incoming missiles in a precise manner and is able to detect missiles at a longer range with greater accuracy. The Israel Air Force has a special unit exclusively responsible for the Arrow system. It includes all batteries that are designed to intercept long-range missiles. The system will initially be deployed in central Israel to provide maximal response to security threats.


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