Iron Dome will keep on getting better, developer says

Missile defense system not only saves lives but also gives political leaders more time to make crucial decisions about war and peace, says Danny Gold

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Iron Dome missile defense system in action, November 15, 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
The Iron Dome missile defense system in action, November 15, 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The Iron Dome missile defense system is already capable of intercepting almost all enemy rockets fired at Israel and will continue to improve its accuracy, one of its chief developers said Monday. He warned, however, that the country’s civilian population must not become complacent and must adhere to instructions by the Home Front Command.

“The effectiveness of Iron Dome is very, very high,” said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dr. Danny Gold, who helped developed the system. “I’m not surprised, because if you study the system, you foresee a very high rate of success. I’ve put the numbers very high, and it reached the goal and got even better. And I don’t see any physical barriers to getting even better.”

Iron Dome was already very accurate during the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, he said, “but the system is progressing all the time.”

Unlike other missile defense systems, which require a long time to adapt to new situations, Iron Dome can do so very rapidly, Gold told reporters during an English-language briefing organized by the Israel Project. “It’s not quite like an iPhone application, which can be changed in one minute, but the changes to the [Iron Dome] system can be made very fast, and then the system can progress very fast,” he said. “We tried to design a system that will cope with all bad things that can happen, and cope with uncertainty.”

Iron Dome has become a crucial factor in Operation Protective Edge, as it was able to shoot down dozens of rockets from Gaza that would have otherwise fallen on inhabited areas. On Sunday alone, Iron Dome downed 22 missiles out of more than 130 launched in Israel’s direction. Originally said to address short to mid-range threats, described as between 4 and70 kilometers, the system has since clearly expanded its range.

It was the Israel Air Force’s decision to shoot down a drone Hamas had sent to Israel Monday with Patriot missiles and not with Iron Dome, Gold said, although the system he helped create would have been perfectly capable of doing it. “Iron Dome has very huge capabilities that have not yet been demonstrated because there is no need,” he said.

“The system speaks for itself,” said Gold, a former head of research and development at Israel’s Defense Ministry and today the CEO of his own technology company. Almost everything the developers aimed for was achieved, he said, adding that Iron Dome not only saves lives but also prevents “billion of dollars in damages…. Israel is working, the economy is running,” he said. Furthermore, Iron Dome gives “additional maneuvering room for the political echelon,” as leaders aren’t pressured into action by rising casualties or panic in Israel’s civilian population. “We can prepare before we go to war,” he said.

Iron Dome project manager Daniel Gold (photo credit: Courtesy: President's Conference)
Iron Dome project manager Daniel Gold (photo credit: Courtesy: President’s Conference)

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has been attacked not only by nearly 1,000 rockets from Gaza but also by missiles from Syria and Lebanon. Gold is confident that Iron Dome is capable of dealing even with multiple simultaneous fronts. “Wherever you put the system, the area is protected. You can move it to Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv is protected. You can put it in Kiryat Shmona, Kiryat Shmona is protected. If you place it in Haifa, Haifa is protected — no matter who is shooting at you.”

Of course, he added, Israel needs “a very large inventory and also a few working production lines” to ensure that the system doesn’t run dry. “But I’m sure the Ministry of Defense is doing it and that there’s no bottleneck in this aspect.”

The system’s high rate of success does carry risks of the public becoming complacent about the threat of rocket attacks, Gold acknowledged. Civilians need to continue to meticulously seek shelter in protected areas whenever sirens sound, because despite Iron Dome’s very high success rate, “it’s not 100 percent,” he said. Additionally, dangerous debris from intercepted rockets could fall from the sky.

Israel’s political and military leadership, on the other hand, is unlikely to be swept away in a wave of unwarranted smugness, Gold suggested. They know that to keep Israelis safe they need to combine deterrence and prevention of weapons from being smuggled to Hamas and Hezbollah with massive intelligence work, he said. “These are layers that support each other. I don’t think we’ll see a future in which people will sit at home and do nothing during an attack, and the Iron Dome will do everything.”

Finally, Gold rebutted critics who have claimed, in scientific journals and in the media, that Iron Dome fails to properly detonate shrapnel-packed explosive heads and thus cannot be relied on to keep civilians safe. “They have no connection to Iron Dome and its technology,” he said of Iron Dome’s critics. “They have no connection even to reality, because the reality is that Iron Dome is taking almost everything down.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed