Iron Dome Air Defense System | What, Why & How ?

Recently, tensions between Israel and Palestine intensified as Israeli police fired tear-gas on stone-pelting crowd gathered at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, during the the holy month of Ramadan. Hostilities grew rapidly when in retaliation to what happened in the Al-aqsa mosque, Hamas fired barrage of rockets into Israel and from here comes the introduction of the Iron Dome Air Defense system. Which is said to have intercepted more than 90% of the 4300+ rockets fired from the Palestinian side.

Iron Dome (on left)

Videos on social media showed rockets fired by Hamas being intercepted by Israeli air defense system Iron Dome, streaks of light and explosions in the night sky .

What is Iron Dome ?



It is a multi-mission, very short range, ground to air, air defense system, predominantly a missile defense system. It is designed to intercept and destroy aerial targets at very short range, shielding the sky from rockets, artillery and mortars (C-RAM)

Iron dome is developed by Rafael Advanced Defense System and Israel Aerospace Industries. The system operates day and night and in all weather conditions, including low clouds, rain, dust storm or fog. The origin of Iron dome lies in  2006 Israeli-Lebanon war, when Palestine fired thousands of rockets at Israel. Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense System and produced by Israel Aerospace Industries it was deployed in Mar, 2011 near Beershaba and successfully intercepted BM-21 Grad launched from Gaza in Apr 2011. Earlier, Rafael claims it has intercepted 2000 targets with 90% success rate & now after the conflict IDF says the system had intercepted more than 90% of 4300+ rockets fired.

Note : U.S variant of Iron Dome Air Defense system is known as ‘Sky Hunter’.

Design & Technology

Iron Dome has three components :

  • Detection and Tracking Radar Unit
  • Battle Management and Control Unit
  • Missile Firing Unit
  • Detection-&-Tracking-Radar-Unit-onwayMechanic
  • Battle-Management-unit-of-Iron-dome-OnwayMechanic
  • Battery-turret-on-Man-Trucks-OnwayMechanic
  • Tamir-Interceptor-Missiles-Firing-OnwayMechanic
  • Iron-Dome-Inhar-Cohen-OnwayMechanic
  • Iron-Dome-system-animation-OnwayMechanic
  • Tamir-Missile-OnwayMechanic

In layman’s terms Iron Dome simply consists of a Wheeled Chassis Launcher (6×6 Truck chassis) with 20 interceptor missiles, a radar and Battle management & control operating station. The interceptor missiles are sealed in a ready to launch canisters, they are inserted in four groups of Five tubes on the turret. The trucks normally used are from Man and Tatra.

The Radar (ELM-2084) is ground-based mobile 3D AESA(active electronically scanned array) multi-mission, multi-mode radar. This means various types of targets can be tracked simultaneously. The radar unit is compact and mobile version which can be easily transported and rapidly deployed. Its range is around 450 km .

The radar is capable of detecting and tracking both aircraft and ballistic targets approaching the protected area providing fire control guidance for missile interception or artillery air defense . It can track up to 200 targets per minutes

Also Read : Top 20 Aircraft of the IAF | IAF’s 88th Anniversary Special

The Missile unit launches the Tamir interceptor missile, which is equipped with electro-optic sensors and several steering fins for high maneuverability. Each launcher or Missile Firing Unit consists of 20 missiles .

Tamir Missile is highly maneuverable, high-thrust solid fuel motor missile, with fins to maneuver and two way data links under them to assist

How it Works ?

Since rockets fired travel at very high speed, to effectively counter them, the system has to be quick and highly sensitive. Here lay the specialty of iron dome, it can monitor 1100 targets at a time and respond to the incoming threats quickly .

If the estimated trajectory of any threat (within the distances of 4 to 70 km) is headed towards the protected area, it is accurately tracked and traced by the radar. The battle management system liaises between the radar and missile units which fires a Tamir interceptor missile. Battle Management & Control chooses the launcher to be used to increase hit probability based on Artificial Intelligence for threat perception & prioritization .

The tracking radar helps the interceptor missile to reach the incoming threats after which the electro-optical sensitive missile takes over. The missile is highly maneuverable and can reach small targets.

As it is impossible to hit a target head-on, the missile has an integrated gimble-mounted active seeker and a laser proximity fuse, range of the seeker is 40 km.

The missile approaches an incoming target from the front thus increasing chances to destroy the warhead on the target. The laser proximity fuse laces the target with a laser beam, which bounces back from the target to the receiver on the missile. When the missile is within ten meters of the target, it blasts into flakes or shrapnel covering the surrounding area with it, destroying the target, achieving the ‘End-game homing’. Below is the video to understand ‘End-Game Homing’ in a better way.

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