Analysing Iron Dome’s Limitations in the Face of Hamas Aggression

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Israel has a long record of developing highly productive, state-of-the-art defence technologies and capacities. An excellent example of Israeli military muscle is the Iron Dome air defence system, widely praised as the world’s best protection against missiles and rockets.

However, on Oct. 7, 2023, Israel witnessed a very large-scale missile invasion by the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group Hamas. The group shot several thousand missiles at some targets across Israel. A noteworthy number of the Hamas missiles stabbed the Israeli defences, inflicting comprehensive damage and casualties. There is a simple reason the Israeli defence strategy was not fully adequate against the Hamas attack. 

An air defence system consists of three essential components. First, there are radars to see, identify and chase incoming missiles. The range of these radars ranges. Iron Dome’s radar is sufficient over 2.5 to 43.5 miles (4 to 70 km), according to its manufacturer Raytheon. Once the radar has caught an object, it must be evaluated to decide whether it is a threat. Information such as movement and speed are used to create this determination. 

If an object is verified as a threat, Iron Dome operators continue to chase the object by radar. Missile speeds deviate considerably, but carrying a representative speed of 3,280 feet per second (1 km/s), the defence system has at most one minute to react to an attack.

The battle control centre is the second central element of an air defence system. This component defines the appropriate way to employ a confirmed danger. It utilises the continually revising radar information to choose the optimal reaction in terms of from where to shoot interceptor missiles and how many to throw against an incoming missile.

The third central element is the interceptor missile, for Iron Dome is a supersonic missile with heat-seeking detectors. These sensors deliver in-flight updates to the interceptor, letting it head toward and close in on the danger. The interceptor uses an immediacy fuse triggered by a small radar to burst close to the incoming missile so that it does not have to shoot it directly to disable it.

Israel has at least 10 Iron Dome machines in operation, each having 60 to 80 interceptor missiles. Each of those missiles costs around $60,000. In earlier attacks involving smaller numbers of missiles and rockets, Iron Dome was 90% efficacious against various threats.

So, why was the procedure less effective against the contemporary Hamas attacks?

It is a simple query of numbers. Hamas shot several thousand missiles, and Israel had less than a thousand interceptors in the area ready to contradict them. Even if the Iron Dome was 100% efficacious against the incoming threats, the massive number of Hamas missiles pointed out that some were going to get through.

The Hamas attacks display very clearly that even the best air defence systems can be crushed if they are overmatched by the number of dangers they have to counter.

The Israeli missile defence has been made up over many years, with high grades of financial assets. How could Hamas afford to overcome it? Again, it all comes down to numbers. The missiles fired by Hamas cost about $600 each, so they are about 100 times less costly than the Iron Dome interceptors. The total cost to Israel of releasing its interceptors is around $48 million. If Hamas fired 5,000 missiles, the cost would be only $3 million.

Therefore, in a carefully designed and executed strategy, Hamas stockpiled over time a large number of relatively affordable missiles that it knew would overpower the Iron Dome’s defensive abilities. Unfortunately for Israel, the Hamas seizure conveys a prominent model of military asymmetry: a low-cost, less-competent approach was able to conquer a more expensive, high-technology system.

The Hamas aggression will have repercussions for the world’s foremost military strengths. It depicts the need for air defence systems that are much more useful in two essential methods. First, there is the requirement for a much more severe arsenal of defensive weapons that can handle many missile threats. Second, the cost per defensive weapon ought to be reduced immensely.

This episode will likely increase the evolution and deployment of directed energy air defence systems established on high-energy lasers and high-power microwaves. These machines are sometimes defined as having an “infinite magazine” because they have a reasonably low cost per shot released and can keep shooting as long as they are provided with electrical power.

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