Comment / Iron Dome Success Does Nothing to Ease Rocket Threat

The stock of Iron Dome missiles is liable to run out way before the rocket barrages on the home front end.

There is no doubt that the people at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems deserve much praise for the success of the Iron Dome trial. It is certainly an impressive technological achievement. The problem is that the success of Iron Dome does nothing to ease the threat of Qassams on Sderot, or the threat of the short range Katyushas in the hands of Hezbollah.

Iron Dome has brought nothing new to the table, and it has not solved the inherent problems of a defense system based on missiles trying to intercept enemy rockets. Therefore the rejoicing and the preening in the wake of the test's success hide the far bleaker truth.

The public relations campaign accompanying the test is full of deceptions and half-truths. It has ignored the flaws in the systems and has created illusions. This is because Iron Dome will not protect the communities directly surrounding Gaza nor, apparently, locales even further away from the Strip.

In likely scenarios of rocket fire on the home front, the stock of Iron Dome missiles is liable to run out way before the rocket barrages end. And in any case, because of the high cost of using Iron Dome for defense, the Palestinians in the south and Hezbollah in the north can defeat us at the bank, without even launching a single rocket.

To begin with, Iron Dome is not capable of protecting the "Gaza envelope" because of the Qassam rockets' brief flying times. A Qassam makes its way from Beit Hanoun to Sderot in about 14 seconds. Iron Dome needs about 30 seconds to make an interception attempt.

That is - the system is not capable of protecting anything at a distance of less than four kilometers from the Gaza Strip.

This bitter truth was discovered in 2008 by cabinet ministers, who decided to fortify all the locales less than four and a half kilometers away from the Strip. This known fact did not deter the security establishment representatives from deluding the inhabitants of the "Gaza envelope" into thinking that the success of the Iron Dome test means protection for them.

But the problem is even worse. While the Qassams launched at Sderot were relatively slow, during the course of Operation Cast Lead Hamas was already launching third-generation Qassams, Grads and improved Grad models. These are three or four times faster than the earlier models.

A simple calculation reveals that in the face of this threat, Iron Dome's minimum range has increased from four to 12 and perhaps even 16 kilometers.

Under such circumstances, Iron Dome will not be able to protect even Ashkelon.

Another deception spread by the media was the statement that henceforth the southern locales will be protected not only from Qassams but also from mortar shells, a claim that not even the developers of the system are making.

Nevertheless, when reporters and pundits hailed Iron Dome's ability to intercept mortar shells, no one from the defense establishment bothered to correct them.

Another problem is the price of the interception. An Iron Dome missile will cost about $100,000; a Qassam costs several dozens of dollars. An attempt to prepare for the launching of thousands of rockets (as in the Second Lebanon War) entails an untenable cost in the south as well as the north - where the threat consists of about 40,000 rockets in Hezbollah's hands.

Worse still is the plan to deploy another system developed by Rafael - Magic Wand. The price of one missile in this system will come to about $1 million.

The inhabitants of the western Negev, Kiryat Shmona and the Upper Galilee have to know the truth. They must not follow blindly the trumpet blasts of the media festival that has accompanied the successful test of Iron Dome. This dome is not going to protect them.