How Hamas Outfoxed Israel’s Iron Dome, A Nearly Impenetrable Air Defence

Iron Dome
Iron Dome

The morning silence was shattered by air raid sirens across Israel, as one of the best air defence systems in the world was once again put to work.

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A Hamas attack has triggered a war between Israel and the Palestinians. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip fired over 5,000 rockets towards Israel within 20 minutes of declaring Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, one of the world’s best, once again shattered the morning silence with air raid sirens. Rockets were destroyed mid-air by Iron Dome and flares illuminated the sky. There was an unprecedented scale to the attack this time, however.

What is the Iron Dome system?

In several parts of the country, the Iron Dome system provides short-range air defence against rocket attacks, mortars, artillery shells, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Detection and tracking radar, Battle Management and Weapons Control, and the Missile Launcher equipped with 20 Tamir missiles make up the air defence system, which has a range of approximately 70 km.

Israel has been protected by the system since 2011. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets during the 2006 Lebanon conflict, destroying several northern areas, including Haifa. Israeli air defence systems were developed in response to the 2006 attacks.

How Iron Dome Works?

Rockets fired toward Israel are detected and tracked by the Detection and Tracking radar, which relays the information to the weapons control system. The weapons control system uses fast, complex calculations to determine the rocket’s trajectory, speed, and expected target.

A Tamir Missile is automatically fired in mid-air if an incoming rocket is aimed at a populated area or strategic establishment. In Israel, at least ten launchers are in a single battery. Over 2,000 intercepts have been made by the Iron Dome system so far, according to its manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defence System.

What Happened This Time?

Hamas’ rocket barrage overpowered the near-perfect air defense system. In recent years, Hamas has been looking for weaknesses in the Iron Dome system. With Salvo rocket attacks (multiple rockets launched in a short period of time), they have been successful in overwhelming the control system, making it difficult to intercept all targets. In just 20 minutes, over 5,000 rockets were launched.

Since Hamas is continually improving its crude rocket technology, it has increased its range to cover major cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Tamir missile fired to intercept a rocket launched by Hamas is much cheaper than the rocket launched by Hamas. Iron Dome’s value extends beyond its cost analysis for Israel. It has proven to be effective in neutralizing targets and saving lives in the past.

According to Israel, 85 percent of the 400 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward civilian and strategic areas in 2012 were repelled.

Hamas fired over 4,500 rockets during the 2014 conflict. Around 735 aircraft were shot down, a 90 percent success rate. Over 800 intercepted and over 800 shot down.

Upgrade and 2021 Attacks

A system upgrade in 2021 enabled Israel to intercept rocket and missile salvos as well as multiple unmanned aerial vehicles simultaneously.

Over 1,000 rockets were fired in the first days of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in May 2021, and over 4,500 rockets were fired during the entire conflict. As a result of the crisis, officials reported that the system had a 90 percent strike rate against rockets.

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