The Israeli military has long touted its cutting-edge air defences, with the Iron Dome, Arrow 3, Barak 8, and David’s Sling designed to protect the country from threats ranging from small rockets to long-range ballistic and cruise missiles. However, the ongoing firefight with Hamas in Gaza has shown that no air defence system is perfect.
The technical limitations of the Iron Dome, combined with the improving range and speed characteristics of Hamas’ rockets, are making it increasingly difficult for Israel’s advanced air defences to counter the militant group’s attacks, Iranian defence journalist Seyed Mohammad Taheri suggests.
“Several days have passed since the start of a new round of clashes between the Zionist army and Palestinian resistance groups, and in the spotlight more than anything is the power of resistance groups’ rockets, their ability to fire large volumes of these rockets into the depths of the occupied territories, and Israeli air defence systems’ battle with them,” Taheri wrote in a piece for Tasnim.
The observer believes the Israeli military first discovered the growing missile power of its adversaries during the 2006 Lebanon War, when Hezbollah militants fired thousands of rockets into Israel, bombarding cities, towns, and villages in retaliation to a similar Israeli Air Force campaign against its northern neighbour.
The Iron Dome was set up in 2011, becoming a central component of Israel’s multilayered air and missile defence system, with an aerospace defence system divided by region replaced with an integrated system covering the whole of the country.
The Iron Dome itself is perhaps tasked with the most important role among Israel’s air defence systems when it comes to battling non-state entities such as Hamas and Hezbollah, given its responsibility for dealing with unsophisticated, low-speed, low-altitude rockets like those launched by non-state actors.
More advanced systems such as the Arrow 3 are meant to counter threats including ballistic and cruise missiles. However, Taheri suggests that while the Iron Dome has seen plenty of real-life “testing,” “the other air defence systems of the regime’s military, except in a few cases, have not yet entered into a serious conflict, and therefore their performance is disputed.”