Israel successfully tests improved version of Iron Dome

Anti-missile defense system, using new US-made interceptors, put through paces and comes out with flying colors

Successful test of Iron Dome anti-missile system, February 22, 2017 (Screen capture: YouTube)
Successful test of Iron Dome anti-missile system, February 22, 2017 (Screen capture: YouTube)

The Defense Ministry completed a series of successful tests of an improved version of the anti-rocket Iron Dome missile system, the ministry said on Wednesday.

It was the first trial of new Tamir interceptor missiles, which were developed together with the United States’ Missile Defense Agency.

Over the past few days, the Defense Ministry’s weapons development administration and the American agency put the system through its paces with a series of complex tests, along with the main contractor for the project, Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a statement said. The system reportedly passed with flying colors.

The new Tamir interceptor missiles, which included components made in the United States, were launched to engage and destroy incoming rockets. The American portions of the missiles were manufactured by US defense contractor Raytheon, under Israeli supervision.

The manufacturing cooperation is a first for the Israeli program, which is jointly funded with the US, and reflects an agreement signed with the US in 2014. That year the rocket system, under development in Israel for over a decade, proved its mettle in a near-perfect record of knocking out of the sky rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli population centers.

The Iron Dome system was developed, after much naysaying, to counter the rocket threat from Gaza, a territory from which Hamas and other organizations have fired upward of 15,200 projectiles at Israel since 2001. Sped to the field in a breakneck four years, the Rafael-made system was built to counter rocket threats emanating from four to 70 kilometers away.

But the Iron Dome proved itself in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge war in and around Gaza. During that war, Hamas and other terror organizations fired 4,594 rockets at Israel. Of those, the system chose to intercept 799 projectiles – it is designed to focus only on missiles deemed threatening to populated areas, ignoring those headed for empty fields or the sea — hitting 735 and missing or otherwise failing to destroy 64, according to a Channel 2 report.

Toward the end of the war, Hamas focused on short-range mortar fire, which the system was not made to intercept. Other attempts have been made to increase the rate of fire so as to overwhelm the system and to acquire heavier and longer rockets that exceed Iron Dome’s limits.

The system was last used earlier this month to intercept three rockets fired at Eilat by the Islamic State in Sinai. (The fourth rocket launch was not intercepted as it was headed toward an open field.)

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