It would be an injustice to the Israel Air Force to give all the credit during the current escalation to the Iron Dome, despite the system’s tremendous success. In fact, perhaps without really intending to do so, the IAF operated during this four-day conflict with more diverse tactics, both defensively and offensively, than ever before. It revealed a range of new abilities that, in the end, contributed significantly to the fact that this round ended with little damage and no loss of Israeli life. It also resulted in precision strikes on the other side with minimal unnecessary casualties.
Accumulated combat experience gained against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza has enhanced the IAF’s precision strike capabilities. Targeted assassinations, which sparked this round of fighting, actually damaged their weapons storage facility, which exploded and caused the highest number of casualties among the Gazan population. It also proved the IAF’s ability to hit a specific target by using small, smart munitions.
We should also note the short duration of this “cycle of fire;” in other words, striking rocket launch crews. In this round, largely due to excellent intelligence cooperation between the IAF and the Israel Security Agency, the IAF was able to hit rocket launchers’ cells before they had a chance to carry out their mission, thus preventing massive potential damage.
In protecting the Israeli civilian population, the Iron Dome system excelled. With an amazing 90 percent success rate on its first day of operation and 80% success over the four days of fighting, the system neutralized the worst threat that the Islamic Jihad could launch at Israel. The Iron Dome is celebrating not yet a year of operational activity, in the midst of a bitter public debate about its cost and capabilities. This round actually only gave it a minimal amount of operational experience.
The cost of one Iron Dome interception, nearly $50,000, is one of the cards most often played by its opponents. What is not considered in their argument is that the Iron Dome is supported by a spectacular computer system designed to decide on the key question: Should it intercept the launched missile? The system consists of a number of sensors spread throughout the country that feed it information. The sensors stream data to a processing center in a secret location, and based on all the information it gathered, the system determines whether the missile launched will fall in an open area and will not cause damage, or if it is en route to a populated area. If the latter is true, the Iron Dome takes action.