At $10,000 to shoot down a $400 rocket, Iron Storm's a bargain, says Israel

Iron Dome

padang Iron Dome was hot? Wait till you get a load of David's Sling / AP Source: AP

  • Shoots down short-range rockets
  • Extra $250m investment from US
  • Works with Arrow, David's Sling

ISRAEL has deployed Iron Dome - a cutting-edge rocket defence system designed to protect its citizens from bombardment.

After four years in development, Israel hopes the homegrown system will is a solution to the years of rocket fire from Gaza.

The primitive rockets have evaded Israel's high-tech weaponry, in part because their short flight path, just a few seconds, makes them hard to track.

The government approved Iron Dome in 2007. Each battery comprises detection and tracking radar, state-of-the-art fire control software and three launchers, each with 20 interceptor missiles.

In May, US President Barack Obama asked Congress to give Israel $205 million to develop the system, on top of the annual three billion dollars Israel receives from Washington.

Iron Dome will join the Arrow long-range ballistic missile defense system in an ambitious multi-layered program to protect Israeli cities from rockets and missiles fired from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iran.

A third system, known as David's Sling, is currently being developed with the aim of countering medium-range missiles.

Iron Dome uses sophisticated cameras and radar to track incoming rockets, determine where they will land, and intercept and destroy them far from their targets.

If the system determines the rocket is headed to an open area where casualties are unlikely, it can allow the weapon to explode on the ground.

Brigadier General Doron Gavish, commander of Israel's air defence corps, said Iron Dome has passed a series of tests and has now reached its "evaluation phase" in the field.

It is expected to be fully operational in a matter of months.

He added that it was only supposed to be deployed later in the year, but it was put into operation earlier because of the recent rocket attacks from Gaza.

"Obviously, after what we saw in the last few weeks, we accelerated the phases," he said, standing before the brown, box-like battery on the outskirts of Beersheba, southern Israel's largest city with a population of nearly 200,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a sober assessment of Iron Dome, saying he "didn't want to create the illusion" that the system would offer Israel 100 per cent protection from rocket attacks.

"The Iron Dome system is still in an experimental stage, and at any rate, we cannot deploy batteries that can protect every house, every school, every (military) base and every facility," he said.

A second anti-missile battery will be deployed in another large southern city, Ashdod, the military said, without specifying a date.

Officials refused to say how many batteries would be deployed altogether, what their range was, or how much the system would cost.

Analysts have estimated the cost of shooting down a rocket could be tens of thousands of dollars, compared to just a few hundred dollars to produce the rocket.

"The real test is not the price of knocking down the rocket, but how much damage the rocket would cause, and the price in human life, if it hits," Brig Gen Gavish said.

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