Iron Dome Sees Israel Ramp up, Raytheon Partnership for US Market
On August 16, 2011, Rafael and Raytheon announced a partnership to market the Iron Dome system in the United States. This rocket interception system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has an all-weather range of up to 70 km (43.5 miles). To make the system mobile, the detection/tracking radar and battle management/control parts of the system are carried on trucks, while the missile firing unit is mounted on a trailer.
Then in November 2011 the Jerusalem Post reported that the US Army had expressed interest to protest its bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. South Korea is also reportedly interested. While exports remain tentative as of the end of 2011, several systems have been fielded in Israel in recent years.
Iron Dome was selected by Israel’s government as its short range defensive solution back in 2007. At the time other options were also on the table such as the THEL/Skyguard laser-based system. In February 2010 IAI announced a $50 million export contract for the radar component of the Iron Dome system. After the US Congress approved $205M in military aid to procure 9 Iron Dome batteries, Israel said that it would start deploying the systems by the end of that year to protect civilians from rockets, mortar and artillery fired by Hamas.
The IDF announced in April 2011 that the Iron Dome battery deployed in Be’er Sheba intercepted two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at night. However, beyond the initial investment, at issue is the cost asymmetry between improvised rockets at maybe $500 a pop vs. intercepts estimated to cost $50K+ each. More broadly, which approach to take for missile defense has been a subject of intense debate in Israel for years. This cost vs. benefit public discussion is still very much alive.
On August 7, 2011, Israel’s High Court of Justice answered a petition from a group of towns in the Gaza area by ruling in favor of the Defense Ministry which refuses to fund Iron Dome systems in all towns more than 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from the Gaza Strip. Still, on August 31 planned deployments were continuing with the 3rd battery being stationed outside the city of Ashdod.
For larger, longer-range threats, IAI has developed the Arrow theater missile defense system with Boeing.