Israel’s Shield in the Sky

March 25, 2019

by: Jo Sarah Stanford, BFP Staff Writer

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The sun was shining brightly on Mount Hermon. Hundreds of Israelis, Palestinians and tourists—making the most of the recent heavy snowfalls—were enjoying a day in northern Israel at the Promised Land’s only ski resort, a short distance away from the Syrian border. It was the perfect day for a Zealous Israel Project (Bridges for Peace’s servant-based discipleship program for young adults) excursion.

The rest of the team and I were having a great time with snowball fights, slipping on the ice and feeling the rush of the alpine roller coaster. One member of the team had never seen snow before.

We were waiting in line to go up the ski lifts, when, without warning, I heard an immense roar as two projectiles streaked like fireballs over my head. It was the Iron Dome, Israel’s short-range missile defense system.

All eyes looked to the sky as the two interceptor missiles fired into the distance, leaving trails behind them. Only then did my brain begin to process what happened—and what it actually meant. A terrorist missile was headed toward us.

Was I in danger? Do we move? No one else was moving. And where would we go? Then came a loud boom in the distance, rolling like thunder. The Iron Dome interceptors had hit their mark. The missile was destroyed. The Iron Dome had done its job.

The most surreal thing was that, seconds later, everyone went back to pushing in line for the ski lift—as if the scene had been nothing more than a fireworks display. Yet such is the life of Israelis. And such is the effectiveness of the Iron Dome.

Israel has always been under the threat of war. Enemies sit on her borders, openly calling for her destruction, boasting of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles aimed at her cities and innocent civilians. These boasts have terrifying firepower behind them.

Geographically, Israel is a small country. At only 8,019 square miles (20,770 km2) it is roughly the size of New Jersey in the United States. Israel is six times smaller than the United Kingdom, 59 times smaller than South Africa and 370 times smaller than Australia. A missile can reach any major population center in a matter of minutes. Israelis living close to the borders have mere seconds to gather their children and run for the bomb shelters.

The threat of rocket attacks is a daily reality for Israelis, but there is one thing that gives them a measure of security: a world-class, state-of-the-art aerial defense system. It works by firing interceptor rockets at the incoming projectile, destroying it in the air before it has a chance to hit homes, schools or hospitals. Israel’s aerial defense is a three-tier system capable of defending Israel’s skies from short-, medium- and long-range threats. Tier one is the Iron Dome, tier two is David’s Sling and tier three is Arrow 3.

Tier One: The Iron Dome

Iron Dome

The Iron Dome protects against short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 2.5–44 miles (4–70 km.). It has a 90% success rate.

The Iron Dome battery is a highly mobile system. Transported on the back of a truck, it is able to be moved where it is needed most. Each battery contains a radar and three to four launchers that hold 20 Tamir interceptor missiles. These missiles are equipped with “electro-optical sensors and steering fins with proximity fuse blast warheads,” explains Defense Updates. There are currently 10 batteries deployed around Israel—the majority on the border with Gaza, with some up north in the Golan Heights.

When the radar detects a rocket attack, computers analyze the trajectory of the rocket and calculate whether it is headed for populated areas, after which the technician manning the battery decides whether to launch an interceptor—all in just seven seconds. Costing US $150,000 for each interceptor, operators thus choose to disregard rockets heading for open spaces. This also minimizes the risk of falling debris from the exploded projectile.

The Iron Dome first went active in 2011. In the eight years since, it has intercepted thousands of rockets. During Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, terrorists in Gaza fired over 4,500 rockets into southern Israel. While the rocket fire killed five civilians, the Iron Dome saved the lives of many more, intercepting more than 750 rockets falling on populated areas.

David’s Sling

Tier Two: David’s Sling

David’s Sling intercepts rockets that are fired from a distance of 25–186 miles (40–300 km.). It was developed by Israeli company Rafael in cooperation with American company Raytheon and went active in 2017.

David’s Sling is both a mobile and stationary unit. From its one position, it is able to protect the whole of Israel from larger missile threats, potentially from Syria or Iran.

Tier Three: Arrow

Arrow

Arrow 3 is the most advanced of Israel’s missile technology. Superseding Arrow 2, it is capable of intercepting long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles from outside the earth’s atmosphere. This prevents the risk of falling debris or a potential nuclear fallout—a very real threat with Iran’s persistent nuclear ambitions, despite sanctions seeking to reign in the Islamic Republic.

A joint project between Israeli and American defense companies, the Arrow 3 is still in development. In January, a full-scale test of the Arrow 3 was marked a success.

Sought After across the World

In 2017, Britain purchased Iron Dome technology to complement its own weapons defense system at a cost of US $104 million. The United States recently signed a deal to purchase two Iron Dome batteries, complete with 12 launchers, radar and 240 interceptor missiles for a total of US $373 million.

The first priority of Israel’s defense forces is to “defend and protect Israeli civilians.” The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has spared little expense, time and effort developing such effective systems because they understand the cost of human life is far greater than the time and money. As its website states, Israel “invests in life.” The proven effectiveness of the system and the lives that it has saved leaves no doubt that Israel’s aerial defense system is one of—if not the—best systems in the world.

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