from the September 2009 issue

Anti-rocket defense system Iron Dome hits first try

An Israeli interceptor system developed to shoot down the short-range rockets favored by Palestinian and Lebanese guerrillas recently passed its first live trial according to an Israeli defense official.

Iron Dome's success could improve the prospects of Israel eventually ceding West Bank land to the Palestinians, as Israeli officials have said that any withdrawals should be conditional on the deployment of a reliable defense against rocket attacks.

Designed by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Iron Dome uses small guided missiles to blow up Katyusha-style rockets. Israel plans to station the first working unit outside the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip next year.

"This was the first time Iron Dome was tested with the aim of a metal-to-metal result," an Israeli defense official said, describing the mid-air interception. "The (target) rocket was completely destroyed."

Iron Dome would be capable of intercepting rockets with ranges of between 5 km (2 miles) and 70 km (45 miles), the official said.

The project was spurred by Israel's 2006 war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, during which 4,000 rockets rained down on its northern border communities.

Israel has seen similar attacks by Palestinian guerrillas in Gaza, territory from which it withdrew in 2005. A surge in the salvoes prompted an Israeli offensive last December which many of them civilians.

"When you don't have a system like this, you can get dragged into wars that prove far more expensive," said Alon Ben-David, a defense analyst.

Israel envisages Iron Dome becoming the lowest level of a multi-tier aerial shield capped by Arrow, a partly U.S.-funded system which shoots down ballistic missiles at higher altitudes.

Cabinet officials predict that once it is operational, the Iron Dome system will provide a successful defense against 90 percent of the rockets fired at Western Negev communities.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report September 2009

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