Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ air defence is a failure, Russia’s systems actually work – here’s why
Part of this article uses information provided in a report by Alexander Setnikov for Svobodnaya Pressa.
During the latest round of clashes in Gaza, the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ air defence system (used for repelling local rocket and mortar attacks) managed to intercept less than 25 percent of the missiles fired into Israel by Palestinian armed groups.
This was despite the fact that the Palestinian rockets were entirely primitive by modern standards of weapon design – traveling relatively slow and on a very predictable course, not maneuvering defensively and with no countermeasure electronics to jam intercepting projectiles.
According to Theodore Postol, a now retired but highly regarded professor on science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a key failure of the ‘Iron Dome’ system is that its intercepting missiles attempt to catch the incoming Palestinian rockets from the rear – by comparison, the more modern Pantsir-S system made by Russia is programmed for front-on and side-on interception of an incoming projectile.
Citing a study of the 2012 Gaza-Israeli clash, Postol points out conclusions made by the report that Iron Dome achieved an interception rate of less than 5 percent; when Palestinian rocket attacks were again mass-fired into Israel in 2014, post-attack reports on Iron Dome performance suggested very little improvement in the system.
In contrast to this, Syrian air defences confronted a joint American-British-French cruise missile attack in April this year and succeeded in intercepting 71 of the 103 missiles – all of which were sophisticated guided missile types designed to fly low, regularly change course and were aided by a barrage of radar countermeasure jamming from various sources.
A range of air defence systems – some of them old, others relatively new – were used by Syria during the attack. Whilst eight interception missiles fired by Syria’s old S-200 systems failed to down a single cruise missile, the more modern Pantsir-S scored a 90 percent interception rate; other systems scored somewhere in between. In the end, the total success rate evened out to about 70 percent.