The Iron Dome missile defense system, designed and developed by Israel and jointly funded through the United States, is a response to the threats Israel faces from short and medium-range rockets and mortar shells fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. The system has the capability to identify and destroy such projectiles before they land in Israeli territory and is considered one of the most effective anti-missile systems in the world.
Iron Dome is comprised of three key components:
One of the most advanced features of Iron Dome is its capability to determine where an incoming rocket will land and to only intercept such projectiles that pose meaningful threats to populated civilian areas.
Iron Dome joins Israel's comprehensive missile defense network which includes the David's Sling system, intended to protect against mid-range missiles, and the Arrow Interceptor system, designed to provide defense against long-range ballistic missiles.
The decision to build the Iron Dome system was made by the Ministry of Defense in 2007, following a year in which Hezbollah fired thousands of missiles into northern Israel during the Second Lebanon War. Israel had also experienced rocket attacks on its southern communities from the Gaza Strip, mainly carried out by Hamas.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Iron Dome system underwent a number of comprehensive tests and was declared operational in March 2011. On April 7, 2011, the system successfully intercepted its first projectile, a rocket fired from Gaza towards Israel. Immediately afterwards, IAF aircraft targeted a rocket-launching terrorist cell. The following day, the system successfully intercepted 3 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel.
During the middle of March 2012, when terrorists in Gaza went on a rocket offensive against southern Israel firing nearly 200 rockets in less than 72 hours, the Iron Dome system successfully shot down no fewer than 52 rockets aimed at Beersheva, Ashdod, and Ashkelon. Israel Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, thanked President Obama and American legislators for their allocation of funds to support the Iron Dome project.
In May 2012, President Obama directed US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to allocate an additional $70 million to pay for more Iron Dome batteries and interceptor missiles in Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had come to the States during the month to seek further resource allocation and thanked the administration for helping upkeep a system which has proven successful in saving lives and preventing an escalation in violence. The United States has now paid nearly $300 million for the Iron Dome system.
In November 2012, a wave of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel precipitated the IDF to embark on Operation Pillar of Defense in an effort to destroy the terror groups rocket launching capability. Over the course of the operation, Hamas launched more than 1,500 rockets towards Israel - including qassam, GRAD, and fajr rockets - and Israel used the Iron Dome to successfully intercept more than 420 incoming missiles. During Pillar of Defense, Iron Dome also intercepted missiles over the skies of Jaffa and Tel Aviv for the first time in Israeli history.
As of August 2013, Israel has six Iron Dome batteries deployed in the south and north of the country and plans for six additional batteries to come online within coming months.