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.
April 10/23: Air Strikes The Israeli military has carried out air strikes on targets belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The military said the attacks were a response to a barrage of 34 rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel on Thursday, which it blamed on Hamas. In Gaza, more than 10 Hamas targets were hit, including a shaft for an underground site to construct weapons, three other weapons workshops and an underground “terrorist tunnel”, the IDF said. During the strikes, at least 44 rockets were fired from Gaza towards southern Israel, Israeli media reported. Most were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system or fell in open areas, but at least one house in the city of Sderot was hit.
January 16/23: JBLM The US Army has decided that the two Iron Dome batteries will be sent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington while the service figure out where the final deployment location will be. Equipment training on the second battery will be completed by the end of March, a spokesperson for the Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Missiles and Space wrote in a Jan. 8 email to Breaking Defense.
November 11/21: Guam The Israeli-made Iron Dome missile interception system has been deployed in Guam. The equipment first arrived on the island by ship on October 19. The deployment has been dubbed Operation Iron Island.
October 12/21: Guam The US Army’s 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (94th AAMDC) is deploying a set of Iron Dome air defense system to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam for operational testing. The 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment will be responsible for operating the unit.
August 25/21: Life Fire The US Army, together with the Israeli Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) announced the successful first life fire of its Iron Dome air defense system engaging eight cruise missile targets. Soldiers from the Army’s 3-43 Air Defense Artillery (ADA) successfully engaged eight cruise missile surrogate targets as part of a coordinated performance test and live fire event. The 3-43 Battalion (BN) is the first unit to undergo New Equipment Training, and execute live fire tests with the newly acquired interim cruise missile defense system.
May 27/21: Malfunction An Iron Dome battery of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly shot down its own Surveillance UAV during the 11-day conflict with Hamas while in another incident, the battery malfunctioned allowing rockets from Gaza to rain down on Ashkelon city. According to the Haaretz newspaper, in the first incident, IDF personnel operating the Iron Dome air defense system mistook the drone for a hostile aircraft. In the second incident, an Iron Dome battery guarding Ashkelon city malfunctioned allowing a barrage of Hamas-fired rockets on Ashkelon, resulting in failure to intercept some rockets.
March 18/21: Upgrades Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Israeli Ministry of Defense have successfully completed the third series of tests of the Iron Dome system over the last few months, demonstrating a significant upgrade of the system’s technological capabilities. During the tests, the Iron Dome operated successfully in a range of complex scenarios and intercepted and destroyed targets that simulated existing and emerging threats, including the simultaneous interception of multiple UAVs, as well as a salvo of rockets and missiles.
January 26/21: Gulf According to local news, Israel is giving the US the green light to place Iron Dome batteries in the gulf region. Israel is not revealing the countries in which the batteries will be deployed. Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, the US is expected to place Iron Dome air defense batteries in the Persian Gulf area soon, in a move coordinated with and approved by senior Israeli officials, the Haaretz newspaper’s Yaniv Kubovich reported, quoting defense officials. The reporter pointed out that Israel is not revealing the countries in which the batteries will be deployed, and the defense establishment claims that the deployment is not part of the normalization agreements.
January 5/21: USA Over the weekend, Israel’s Defense Ministry completed the delivery of Iron Dome air defense systems to the US Army under an agreement between the two countries, providing the second of two batteries. The systems will be employed in the defense of US troops against a variety of ballistic and aerial threats. The United States and Israel signed the agreement in August 2019 for the provision of two Iron Dome batteries. The first was delivered in September and is already being prepared for operational use. The second was also delivered in accordance with the project schedule. The delivery was made by the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), part of the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development.
December 11/19: Czech Republic Israel and the Czech Republic have signed a $125 million government-to-government contract for advanced radar systems from Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta Systems. The deal provides for the acquisition of eight ELM-2084 Iron Dome Multi-Mission Radars (MMR). The radars, which have air surveillance and air defense capabilities, will be delivered to the Czech defense establishment over a period spanning the years 2021-2023 and will be interoperable with Czech and NATO command and control systems. The government-to-government agreement enables the transfer of cutting-edge technology and know-how from Israel to Czech partners, whose capabilities will be greatly enhanced. Furthermore, the agreement stipulates the involvement of and collaboration with Czech defense industries at 30% of the procurement, indicating that significant parts of the systems will be produced locally.
August 14/19: Army Inks Contract The US Army has signed a contract to buy two sets of Iron Dome missile intercepting units. Defense News reports that the deal for the Iron Dome systems, which will be part of the US Army’s interim cruise missile defense capability, is set in stone. The service had an urgent capability gap for cruise missile defense on an interim basis. The Army will now figure out delivery schedules and details in terms of taking receipt of the systems. The Iron Dome is the world’s most-used system, intercepting more than 1,900 incoming targets with a success rate exceeding 90 percent since being fielded in 2011. Iron Dome detects, assesses and intercepts a variety of shorter-range targets such as rockets, artillery and mortars. It is effective day or night and in all weather conditions including low clouds, rain, dust storms and fog. It features a first-of-its-kind multi-mission launcher designed to fire a variety of interceptor missiles.
May 10/19: Iron Dome for Marine Corps? According to reports, the US Marine Corps is seeking new air defense systems as it faces advancing military capabilities from Russia and China and contends with the proliferation of drone technology among small terror groups. The Corps is eyeing Israel’s Iron Dome or SkyHunter. According to a Senate briefing, the Marine Corps sought limited funding in fiscal year 2019 to begin testing and integration of the SkyHunter system with the Corps’ Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, or G/ATOR. The Iron Dome is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 kilometers away. It is effective day or night and in all weather conditions including low clouds, rain, dust storms and fog. It features a first-of-its-kind multi-mission launcher designed to fire a variety of interceptor missiles. The Marine Corps has reportedly considered mounting the launchers and Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptors on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, and Oshkosh’s Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement truck, or MTVR.
April 22/19: Exercise According to local reports, the Israeli Defense Forces conducted a training exercise that involved the Patriot and the Iron Dome missile defense systems. Israel Air Force aerial defense personnel conducted interceptions of targets at various heights and distances. The drill was carried out at a base in central Israel and included a range of scenarios in order to test the capabilities of the Israel Air Force’s air defense fighters and technicians and their missile systems. Several missiles were launched against a combination of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. Military delegations from the US and Greece attended and observed the trial and were able to draw conclusions from its results.
February 8/19: US buys The US Army wants to purchase the Israeli made and battle-tested Iron Dome missile defense system. This decision was made between the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the US Department of Defense in order of fulfilling America’s short-term needs for an Indirect Fire Protection Capability. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries designed the mobile all-weather air defense system Iron Dome to destroy and intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of four to 70 kilometers away. After the system successfully intercepted a BM-21 Grad launched from Gaza, it was declared operational. Israel hopes to increase the range of the missile’s interceptions and Iron Dome batteries will in the future be deployed at sea, where they are supposed to protect off-shore gas platforms in conjunction with Israel’s Barak 8 missile system.
November 21/18: This is not a drill ! Israeli military officials are satisfied with the performance of the country’s Iron Dome air-defense system. Iron Dome is an effective, truck-towed mobile air defense system developed to counter very short range rockets and artillery shell (155mm) threats with ranges of up to 70km. During a recent escalation several militant organisations in the Gaza Strip launched a barrage of missile and mortar fire into Israel. From the 12th to the 13th of November about 460 107mm and 122mm short-range rockets and mortars were launched towards southern Israel. An IDF source told Jane’s that the Iron Dome batteries “performed in an excellent manner” by intercepting more than 100 projectiles heading towards civilian built-up areas in Israel.
January 11/18: Potential Exports With Houthi missile attacks from Yemen—believed to originate from Iran—now becoming a more regular nuisance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is reportedly looking to acquire the Israeli-made Iron Dome air defense system to help counter these growing missile threats. The news came though the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, who reported that a “European weapons dealer”—Israel and Saudi don’t have official relations due to the decades of Arab-Israeli strife—was “in the Saudi capital of Riyadh” and said the Saudis are looking into the purchase of Israeli military hardware, such as the Israeli Trophy Active Protection System (APS), which intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a burst of metal pellets and can be mounted to tanks and APCs. The report added that Saudi military officials had viewed Israeli platforms during a recent defense expo in Abu Dhabi, UAE. In the last round of fighting between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip during the 2014 Israeli Operation Protective Edge, Iron Dome had an alleged 90 percent interception rate of rockets and mortars that threatened Israeli populated areas.
November 29/17: Milestone A naval version of Rafael’s Iron Dome air defense system has been declared operational by the Israeli military, bringing to an end an extensive 18-month development and testing program. Integrated with the Elta Systems ELM-2248 Adir surveillance, track and guidance radar onboard the INS Lahav, a Sa’ar-5 corvette-class surface ship, the system had undergone extensive live-fire testing on November 27, where it successfully intercepted and destroyed multiple incoming targets at sea. The variant will be marketed for export as the C-Dome.
September 21/17: The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has established a second Iron Dome battalion as it looks to prepare itself for aerial threats along its northern border. A service press release quoted Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, Commander of the Aerial Defense Division, as saying “Israel’s northern theatre has always been the most threatened area,” adding that the new ‘Iron Dome’ battalion was born out of this reality, and will provide an active defense response in the northern theatre. It will also defend Israel’s maritime space together with the navy. The IAF said the Iron Dome system has thousands of available missiles for an effective response to a wide array of threats, a lack of which temporarily silenced the Iron Dome during a truce in the 2012 Pillar of Defense operation into the Gaza Strip.
September 12/17: Israel’s Iron Dome is being prepared for its first intercept test in the US, as the platform is being considered as an interim solution for a medium- and short-range air defense system (SHORAD) for the US Army. The service started a demonstration series on September 4 at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, with the aim of allowing industry to test solutions that could fulfil the gap in SORAD capabilities found in the European theater. Iron Dome, developed by Rafael with assistance from Raytheon and heavily funded by the US, will face off against competing solutions, including a team involving Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems that is offering its Maneuver SHORAD Launcher Stryker made up of a modernized Avenger air defense system on the back of the vehicle reconfigured to accommodate the system on a turret.
November 14/16: Israeli media have reported that Azerbaijan is interested in the Iron Dome missile interceptor system. If true, it will mark the first sale of the system to a foreign customer. The news comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit Azerbaijan in the coming months amid growing ties with the region. Such a sale could, however, increase tensions between Azerbaijan and neighbor Armenia, who has been in conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
August 10/16: Raytheon and Rafale are to partner on marketing the Iron Dome for the US Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 — Intercept (IFPC Inc 2-I) program. Dubbed Sky Hunter, both companies will utilize Rafael’s Tamir interceptor for the developmental Multi-Missile Launcher (MML). The MML successfully launched a Tamir missile back in April as part of tests on several different types of munitions.
June 16/16: Despite much global interest, Israel has not received any export orders for its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system. Developed by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Iron Dome has gained notable world recognition since its first successful intercept in 2011 of a Hamas launched rocket from Gaza. Despite a 90% interception rate, Rafael execs have been working to entice customers with an expanded mission set including sea-based defense, drone killing missions, and the ability to intercept anything from mortars to precision-guided munitions.