What is an Iron Dome and how does it work?

An Iron Dome is an Israeli mobile air defense system, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries. 

The system is designed to intercept and destroy rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 to 70 kilometers away and whose trajectory would take them to an Israeli-populated area.

The Iron Dome system is one of the most important tools in Israel’s weapons. Analysts say it has saved countless civilian lives over various conflicts in the last decade. 

It is highly effective. The IDF said the system boasted a 95.6% success rate during a May 2023 attack by Salvo Jihad.

Does Iran have an Iron Dome?

Development of the Iron Dome commenced in 2007. Tests were conducted in 2008 and 2009 before the first Iron Dome batteries deployment in 2011. The system has been upgraded several times since.

The mobile defense system is powered by ten batteries that carry three to four maneuverable missile launchers and work in four steps. This is according to Raytheon and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

How the Iron Dome Works

  1. Detect-the Iron Dome radar detects an incoming rocket within 4 to 70 kilometers, from the battery and relays information about the rocket’s speed and path to the command-and-control center.
  2. Predict- the control center calculates the location of impact and predicts whether the rocket is going to strike populated areas. If so, a missile is fired from a launcher, which contains 20 interceptor missiles.
  3. Asses- the system targets rockets that pose the greatest threat to urban areas and infrastructure when dealing with multiple simultaneous threats, ignoring rockets that are likely to hit unpopulated areas or the sea.
  4. Intercept -the control system connects to a launcher that fires a missile to destroy the rocket if an interception is deemed justified. The missile destroys the incoming rocket by exploding near it. The aim is to do this far away from populated areas, to reduce the chances of damage on the ground.

To those on the ground, a direct interception sounds like a loud bang and can sometimes be felt from the ground.

The warhead is believed to carry 11 kilograms of high explosives, IHS Jane’s said in 2012.

During times of war, the cost of operating Iron Dome is likely to increase. Each missile costs around $40,000, so intercepting thousands of incoming rockets is very expensive.

 According to the Congressional Research Service, The US government has spent over $2.9 billion on the Iron Dome program.