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Israel’s Iron Dome Vs Russian S400
Why in news?
- In the conflict between Israeland Palestine,both sides have taken to air strikes and rocket attacks.
- On Tuesday evening, videos on social media showed rockets fired from Gaza being intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system. It appeared that the rockets were hitting an invisible shield.
- The Iron Dome aerial defence system just intercepted a Hamas Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that crossed from Gaza into Israel, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said around 1 p.m. IST on Friday on social media. IDF said on Thursday that in the last three days, Hamas has fired more than 1,500 rockets from Gaza all the way into Israel. The night sky over Israel has been ablaze with interceptor missiles from Iron Dome shooting down the incoming rockets in the sky.
What is Iron Dome?
- It is a short-range, ground-to-air, air defence system that includes a radar and Tamir interceptor missiles that track and neutralise any rockets or missiles aimed at Israeli targets.
- It is used for countering rockets, artillery & mortars (C-RAM) as well as aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
- Iron Dome is manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Limited and has been in service with the Israeli Air Force since 2011. The radar system was developed by Elta.
- Its development was prompted after a series of rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas in the 2000s.
- In the 2006 Lebanon war, around 4,000 rockets were fired on the northern parts of Israel resulting in the death of about 44 Israeli civilians and evacuation of around 250,000 citizensfollowing the development of the system was taken up.
- The Iron Dome was deployed in 2011.
- While Rafael claims a success rate of over 90%, with more than 2,000 interceptions, experts agree the success rate is over 80%.
- Rafael says on its website that it can “protect deployed and manoeuvring forces, as well as the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and urban areas, against a wide rang
- What makes Iron Dome so useful is its technical capability to track the trajectory of each incoming rocket or artillery shell and determine if it is heading towards an urban area.
- Only if the incoming munition is going to strike a city or village will the Iron Dome attempt to intercept the aerial threats”.
How does it work? What makes it so effective?
- The Iron Dome has three main systems that work together to provide a shield over the area where it is deployed, handling multiple threats.
- It has a detection and tracking radar to spot any incoming threats, a battle management and weapon control system (BMC), and a missile firing unit. The BMC basically liaises between the radar and the interceptor missile.
- It is capable of being used in all weather conditions, including during the day and night.
- There are usually two to three radars in any air defence system to spot and track incoming objects. “When you launch the weapon, it is the tracking radar that will help the weapon reach there.” After that, he said, the “the weapon’s own head will take over”.
- Once the missile is fired, it “should be able to manoeuvre, should be able to see the small target on her own and thereafter go and shoot”. But it is impossible to hit the target directly each time, which is why “there is something in each missile called proximity fuse” which is a “laser-controlled fuse”.
- When passing within ten metres of the target, this activates and blasts the missile with shrapnel that destroys the target. The warhead is exploded in such a way that it caters for the velocity of the missile and the target.
Limitations of Iron Dome
- The system has performed very well so far.
- However, the system can see limitations when it is overwhelmed with a barrage of projectiles. “The system has a ‘saturation point’. It is capable of engaging a certain (unpublished) number of targets at the same time, and no more. Additional rockets fired in a crowded salvo could succeed in breaching defences and cause damage.
- Several assessments suggest that Hamasis developing mitigating strategies including lowering the trajectories of the projectiles while also continuing to accumulate thousands of rockets with improved precision.
How much does it cost?
- Each battery, or the full unit, can cost over $50 million, and one interceptor Tamir missile costs around $80,000. In contrast, a rocket can cost less than $1,000. The system dispatches two Tamir missiles to intercept each rocket.
- It is nota good measure to judge cost-effectiveness. “If I have to take… rockets, which cost very little, and I am firing any missile, then it’s an expensive exercise.”
- But it proves a deterrent, he said. Cost effectiveness is each life saved. Second, is about the morale of the nation in not being intimidated by rockets.
What kind of systems does India have?
- Israel, along with the US and Russia, is the leader. “Israel had to master it because of the threat around them and they work very closely with the Americans.”
- As India is in the process of buying S-400 air defence systems from Russia for over $5 billion, Iron Dome was one of the systems that was being spoken of.
- While India is continent-sized, Israel is smaller and has to deal with threats that are relatively close around it. “We have got S-400, which also caters to the three threats (rockets, missiles and cruise missiles). But they have much longer range. S400 has to cater to shooting down missiles, aircraft in some 300 to 400 km range.” S-400 “has a much larger air defence bubble to knock off threats”.
What kind of systems does India have?
- India and Israel have significant cooperation in missiles, including the Baraak-8. “We have also done a lot of work with Israel on air defence radars,” he said.
- At the moment, India has Akash short-range surface-to-air missiles, and Russian systems including Pechora. “All are being gradually replaced with more modern systems,”
- India is buying two National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II from the US to protect Delhi.
How Israel’s Iron Dome Works
How Russian S-400 Works