Iron Dome almost knocked out Israeli F-15 during recent Gaza fighting

Interceptor missile locked onto jet, mistaking it for rocket fired by terror organization from the Strip; IDF says incident is under investigation

Illustrative photo of an Israeli F-15 fighter jet. (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an Israeli F-15 fighter jet. (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)

An Iron Dome missile nearly hit an Israeli jet during the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups, the Israel Air Force acknowledged Wednesday.

According to Channel 12 news, an interceptor missile, fired at a rocket launched from Gaza during the fighting in May, accidentally locked onto an F-15 plane flying over the Strip.

The errant interceptor was detonated by Iron Dome operators moments before hitting the jet, the report said, adding that shrapnel from the interceptor hit the plane.

A Channel 13 report, by contrast, said the interceptor was fired deliberately at the F-15, having misidentified it as a rocket heading into Israel.

It was “a miracle” that nobody was hurt, the report said.

Both TV reports said the IAF confirmed the incident took place and noted that it unfolded at the height of the conflict during heavy barrages of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.

Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system is launched to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, above the southern city of Ashkelon, on May 17, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

The military said that lessons were being learned from the incident.

“This is a complex incident, in which the Air Force is required to intercept rockets and at the same time attack Gaza,” the military said in a statement to Channel 12. “We are investigating the incident to make improvements, as well as continuing to carry out missions for the sake of the safety of those in Israel.”

The incident reported on Wednesday was not the first publicly acknowledged occasion in which Iron Dome locked onto an Israel aircraft. In the wake of the fighting, the army admitted that the missile defense system had shot down one of the IDF’s drones.

According to the Haaretz daily, which first reported the Skylark drone’s downing, the incident caused concern in the Israeli Air Force, given the imperative for the country’s air defenses to be able to identify enemy aircraft and down them.

That report, which did not cite a source, said Iron Dome’s ability to differentiate between hostile and non-hostile aircraft was the main reason an international aviation authority gave Israel the green light to keep its airspace open to commercial flights during the fighting.

Hamas rockets and Iron Dome interceptors light up the night sky over the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

During Operation Guardian of the Walls — the IDF’s name for the 11 days of hostilities that began on May 10, after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian tensions over the city — Gaza terror groups fired more than 4,300 rockets toward Israel, many of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

The IDF responded with roughly 1,500 airstrikes against targets in Gaza, as well as intercepting a number of drones launched toward Israel.

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