IDF deploys fifth Iron Dome system near Tel Aviv, months ahead of schedule
New system estimated to have higher interception abilities than the previous four batteries already in use, includes an improved radar and interception software.
A fifth Iron Dome battery was deployed in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday, two months ahead of schedule, over the IDF's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza. The system is geared at intercepting medium-range missiles fired by militants in the Strip at central Israel.
The battery is estimated to have higher interception abilities than the previous four systems already in use, and includes an improved radar and upgraded interception software, enabling the protection of a larger radius.
The fifth battery is operated by Iron Dome crews coming from IAF's school of aerial defense, as well as by reserve soldiers who have been called up especially for the operation.
In June, the fifth system underwent an operational test in which the battery demonstrated improved interception capabilities.
Speaking at one time on the upgraded battery, a security official indicated that if "Iron Dome defends a certain sector, its improved capabilities will gradually allow it to intercept larger volleys and to cover a larger area."
On Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is expected to propose that the government increase funding to the Iron Dome project, asking to allocate NIS 750 million for the development of more batteries.
Since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, the four already operational batteries registered a 90-percent interception rate. As of Saturday morning, the systems shot down over 200 rockets, with only 28 landing in residential areas of the 600 launched overall.
IDF officials indicated that these figures were unusually positive, especially since more recently Gaza militants have been firing larger rocket volleys.
In addition, the air force changed Iron Dome's interception plan, with only one interceptor fired at every rocket, instead of the two used at rockets aimed at residential areas until now.
Military officials added that they were managing the system's missile supply in order to prevent a shortage later on.