One day after a rocket was fired from Sinai toward Eilat, and amid mounting tension in Egypt, the IDF last Wednesday brought a sixth Iron Dome anti-missile battery online, boosting the country’s burgeoning air-defense array, it was confirmed Sunday.
The newest battery is the first to be operated solely by reserves soldiers and is part of a plan to introduce further reserves “one after another,” according to Col. Zvika Haimovitch, the commander of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Division’s Active Defense Wing.
“This weekend we introduced an additional Iron Dome battery, based on reserves manpower, which will protect the citizens of Israel in times of emergency,” Haimovitch told the army’s weekly Bamahaneh magazine.
The short-range, air-defense system was first introduced in March 2011, after years of contemplation and deep-seated reluctance to both the concept and the notion of an expensive rocket-defense system.
In Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, however, the IDF’s five Iron Dome batteries intercepted 86 percent of the 421 rockets flying toward populated areas — far surpassing virtually all expectations — “and dramatically changing the face of the campaign,” according to then-defense minister Ehud Barak.
Designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the mobile unit is equipped with a tracking radar, a command-and-control center and several missile-firing launchers, which can address simultaneous threats from 4 to 70-plus kilometers away.
The newest battery is part of Israel’s multilayered air-defense system and one of a projected dozen Iron Dome batteries necessary to protect the country from short- and medium-range threats during a time of war.
The several dozen soldiers who will run the battery, trained as part of what will soon be a full reserves battalion, went through a refresher course at the IAF’s Air Defense School, practicing on a simulator and reacquainting themselves with the system, Bamahaneh reported.
“Most of the reservists are veterans of the unit and a small number of them are IAF technicians who were trained to use the system,” said the commander of the new battery, Maj. Itamar Abu.
During Operation Pillar of Defense, Abu was pulled out of university studies and drafted back into service, hastily assembling the fifth Iron Dome squad out of reserves and conscripted soldiers. The battery was supplied to the IDF on Thursday,, November 15; deployed one day later in the Tel Aviv region; and, one day after that — Saturday, November 17 — recorded its first combat intercept.
The rocket fired toward Eilat on Tuesday came two days after five men were killed at a rocket-launching site in northern Sinai and one week after the airport in Eilat was closed in accordance with security assessments.