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Air Defense: America Buys Iron Dome For Israel
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May 18, 2010: Israel is now buying ten batteries of its new Iron Dome anti-rocket system, with the help of an additional (over and above the $1.3 billion a year in military aid) $205 million in American aid money. These batteries will be delivered over the next two years. Five months ago, Israel completed testing its Iron Dome anti-rocket system, and sought to buy seven batteries, but budget problems prevented that.

Each battery has radar and control equipment, and four missile launchers. The first battery will be delivered in a month or so. Based on how that one does, another will be installed on the Lebanese border next year. Each battery costs about $37 million, which includes over fifty missiles. The U.S. is providing the Iron Dome procurement funds to help eliminate a major Palestinian threat to Israel, in the form of persistent rocket and mortar attacks. This is expected to make it easier to get peace talks going between Israel and the Palestinians.

During tests, the Iron Dome system detected and shot down BM-21 and Kassam rockets. The manufacturer, Rafael, was offered a large bonus if they got the system working ahead of schedule. When Iron Dome was first proposed four years ago, it was to take five years (until 2012) to get it operational. In addition to the cash incentive, there's also the rockets still coming out of Gaza, and being stockpiled by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Iron Dome uses two radars to quickly calculate the trajectory of the incoming rocket (Palestinian Kassams from Gaza, or Russian and Iranian designs favored by Hezbollah in Lebanon) and do nothing if the rocket trajectory indicates it is going to land in an uninhabited area. But if the computers predict a rocket coming down in an inhabited area, a $40,000 guided missile is fired to intercept the rocket.

This makes the system cost-effective. That's because Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets in 2006, and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over six thousand Kassam rockets in the past eight years, and the Israelis know where each of them landed. Over 90 percent of these rockets landed in uninhabited areas. Still, a thousand interceptor missiles would cost $40 million. But that would save over a hundred lives, and hundreds of injuries. A cheap price to pay, especially if you are one of the victims, or potential victims. Israel already has a radar system in place that gives some warning of approaching rockets. Iron Dome will use that system, in addition to another, more specialized radar in southern Israel.

The rocket attacks had been around since 2001, but got much worse once Israel pulled out of Gaza in August of 2005. That was a peace gesture that backfired. From 2001 to 2005, about 700 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel. Since the 2005 withdrawal, over 3,200 more rockets have been fired into Israel. The rate of firings increased after Hamas took control of Gaza in June, 2007.

Hamas has been bringing in more factory made Iranian and Chinese made BM-21 and BM-12 rockets. Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas currently has, in Gaza, some factory made BM-21 rockets, each with a range of 20-40 kilometers. They also have some shorter range (six kilometers) B-12 rockets. These are not smuggled in much, because the locally made Kassam II has about the same range. However, the B-12 is more reliable (more reliable trajectory and fuze, so more are likely to land where aimed and explode.)

The B-12 is a 107mm, 19 kg/42 pound, 84 cm/33 inch long, Russian designed rocket that is very popular with terrorists. This rocket has a range of about six kilometers and three pounds of explosives in its warhead. Normally fired, from a launcher, in salvoes of dozens at a time, when used individually, it is more accurate the closer it is to the target. This 107mm design has been copied by many nations, and is very popular with guerillas and terrorists because of its small size and portability. There is a Chinese BM-12 variant which has a smaller warhead and larger rocket motor. This version is supposed to have a range of about 12 kilometers.

The 122mm BM-21s weigh 68 kg/150 pounds and are 2.9 meters/9 feet long. These have 20.5 kg/45 pound warheads, but not much better accuracy than the 107mm model. However, these larger rockets have a maximum range of 20 kilometers. Again, because they are unguided, they are only effective if fired in salvos, or at large targets (like cities, or large military bases or industrial complexes.) There are Egyptian and Chinese variants that have smaller warheads and larger rocket motors, giving them a range of about 40 kilometers.

The rocket attacks from Gaza have been remarkably ineffective, killing only 37 people (half from rockets, the rest by mortars) in eight years. Hamas has had to fire about 270 rockets or mortar shells for each Israel soldier or civilian they have killed. Israeli counterfire killed or wounded a Palestinian for every three Palestinian rockets or mortar shells fired. One Israeli was killed or wounded for every 40 rockets or mortar shells fired. Israeli fire was much more accurate, with most of the Palestinian casualties being terrorists or others involved in building or firing the rockets and mortars. Hamas has tried to get civilians killed, by storing rockets in residential areas, and forming them from those neighborhoods as well. Although Hamas believes in the concept of "involuntary martyrdom" (getting civilians killed for the cause, even if the victims are not willing), many of its chosen candidates for it are not eager to die. So civilians stay away from areas where the rockets are launched, and try to conceal the fact that rockets are hidden under their homes.

Meanwhile, up north in Lebanon, Hezbollah have stockpiled over 40,000 factory made rockets, mainly BM-21s brought in from Iran via Syria. This is three times as many rockets as they had in the Summer of 2006, when over 4,000 rockets were fired into northern Israel, killing about fifty people, most of them civilians. Over a thousand Lebanese died from Israeli counterattacks. Hezbollah and Hamas plan to launch a joint rocket attack on Israel eventually. The Israelis have been planning more effective countermeasures, which they have not been discussing openly.


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huskerguy7       5/18/2010 4:11:59 PM
I'm anxious to see this system in action and how Hamas reacts to it.  Hopefully it's as cost efficient as they say it is.
Good article.
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cwDeici       5/19/2010 12:10:13 AM
Good job, that takes care of some of the few hundred rockets that come over every few years or so.
Now what about the millions of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians?
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cwDeici       5/19/2010 12:11:43 AM
Israel should end its policy if a Jewish majorty while simultaneously instituting a Citizenship Loyalty test and kick out anyne who is disloyal to the survival of the state.
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cwDeici       5/19/2010 12:12:17 AM
...of a cultura/ethnic majority...
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Shirrush    Not smart, deici.   5/19/2010 6:49:59 AM
Israel is a democracy, and the law of the land recognizes both freedom of expression and the right of minorities to self determination. I am rather irritated at the "Palestinism" prevalent among our Arab population, but this does not warrant discrimination or repression, which are famously counterproductive.
Instead, honest discussion of what it means to be an Israeli, i.e., a citizen of the "country of the Jews" rather than the "Jewish country", can achieve a lot in finally ending the 1948 war, at least within Israel. Most Arab Israelis realize how Israeli they are, and what is the difference between them and the residents of the neighboring countries. Most of them, at least the adult and thinking persons among them, of whom I know many, do indeed value their freedom, their citizen's rights, and of course their purchasing power...
It is certainly not easy for Arabs to accept their minority status, as their blood-soaked history, their slave-owning, conquering culture, and their religion of permanent warfare prime them to believe that their fate is to be rulers over other ethnical groups. Once you understand that and empathize a bit with your fellow man, dialogue is possible and is generally enlightening for both sides.
Once hatred is taken out of the equation and level-headedness prevails, we begin to have a future, together. The present Islamist wave among Arabs could be as short-lived as the communist fad of 25 years ago, once people realize that this is going nowhere at warp speed, and that no one ever came back from Allah's paradize or has even sent a postcard or an e-mail from up there.
If the Jewish majority remains loyal to its democratic (and Jewish) values, and confident in the legitimacy of the national dimension of its identity (i.e., zionist), the Israeli Arabs will end up electing representatives who truly take care of their interests, and will send their present, confrontational and disloyal leadership home to seethe and rant to the wall.
N.B.: I'm not a leftist. I believe that peace is a dividend of victory, and that running to your enemies bare-assed and yelling "love me, hug me" only earns you a bad case of colorectal bleeding...

"When one raises to kill you, raise earlier and slay him."
"Honor the stranger among you, for you were once a stranger in Egypt."
These two sentences summarize pretty nicely the Jewish political principles. It should work!
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