Israel has announced the successful testing of its Iron Dome anti-missile system, said to be capable of intercepting rockets launched by militants in Gaza and South Lebanon.
The shield, which fires missiles at incoming threats that it identifies by radar, is being called a “gamechanger” in the way that Israel can conduct its defences.
The system can estimate where a missile will land, targeting those that will hit populated areas while ignoring missiles heading for open ground, military experts said.
Iron Dome would stop missiles with a range of between 4 and 70 kilometres (2.5 and 45 miles), spanning smaller mortar shells from Gaza to the Iranian-made Fajr rockets fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Gaza militants met the announcement with a barrage of at least ten mortar shells, causing no damage but underlining the continued threat to Israel’s southern communities.
In its two most recent wars Israel has faced a barrage of rockets across its borders. Militants in the Gaza Strip have fired home-made Qassam rockets at southern Israel since 2000, most recently during last winter’s Gaza war.
If Israel were to engage in another military operation with its northern or southern enemies, rocket attacks would pose the most serious threat, Israeli defence officials said.
“Terrorists on our borders will see that their most common tool — the launching of rockets against Israel, can be stopped. They will have to find another way, hopefully one that will lead to peaceful negotiations,” said Yossi Horowitz, a developer at Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, the company that helped to build the Iron Dome.
Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, said the missile shield would force Israel’s enemies to rethink their strategies. “The system neutralises one of the foundations of the enemy’s strategy, which says that due to the Israeli army’s total superiority the only way to target Israel is by hitting its population centres,” he said.
The Iron Dome will be deployed in the south of Israel within the next two months and in the north by mid-2010. It is part of a three-tier shield intended to stop different levels of incoming missile attacks, along with the “David Slingshot” and Arrow systems. While those two have been developed in co-operation with America, the Iron Dome is solely an Israeli project.
The three-tiered system, the first of its type, aims to shield all Israeli cities from threats ranging from Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and Iran. Experts said, though, that it cannot guarantee complete effectiveness and that it was prohibitively expensive.
Shlomo Dror, a Defence Ministry spokesman, conceded that there was no 100 per cent protection. “Militants will continue firing rockets and try to launch small attacks against Israel,” he said.
Estimates for the Iron Dome predict that the interception of every rocket will cost tens of thousands of dollars, in contrast to the cheap, home-made Qassams that are used by Gaza militants.
Israel hopes to recoup some of the tens of millions of dollars that Iron Dome will cost by selling the technology to other countries. The US and Britain have each expressed interest, along with other countries fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our priority is to get the system working and active in Israel. But there has been a great deal of interest in all countries facing this type of threat,” Mr Horowitz said.
Source: Times Online
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