June 11, 2014:
The U.S. recently announced it was giving Israel $429 million to buy more Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries as well as more of the Tamir missiles the system uses. The U.S. had already contributed nearly a billion dollars for Iron Dome development and procurement. This latest effort by the U.S. will help Israel put fifteen Iron Dome batteries into service and build up the number of the Tamir missiles. Since 2010 Israel has received eight Iron Dome batteries along with about two thousand Tamir missiles. Each Iron Dome battery has radar and control equipment, four missile launchers, at least fifty missiles and costs about $40 million.
The latest American funding comes with a catch however, as the United States insists that the portion of U.S. made components increase to 30 percent this year and 55 percent in 2015. Currently about three percent of the Iron Dome components are made in the United States. Building more of the components in America is no problem because Israel worked with American suppliers to design and develop many of those components in the first place. This demand that more American aid money be spent in the United States is nothing new. The U.S. has been doing it for years and government the persistent unemployment in the United States Congress insisted that more of the several billion in annual military and economic aid to Israel be spent in the United States. The Israelis don’t like it, but the aid is needed and it is free.
The U.S. is providing the Iron Dome procurement funds to help eliminate a major Palestinian threat to Israel, in the form of persistent rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza and the thousands of rockets being stockpiled by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. During development tests the Iron Dome system detected and shot down BM-21 and Kassam rockets. When Iron Dome was first proposed in 2006 it was believed it would take until 2012 to get it operational but the system was in service by 2011.
Iron Dome uses two radars to quickly calculate the trajectory of the incoming rocket (Palestinian Kassams from Gaza, or Russian and Iranian designs favored by Hezbollah in Lebanon) and do nothing if the rocket trajectory indicates it is going to land in an uninhabited area. But if the computers predict a rocket coming down in an inhabited area, a $40,000 guided missile is fired to intercept the rocket. This makes the system cost-effective. That's because Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets in 2006, and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over seven thousand Kassam rockets in the past twelve years, and the Israelis know where each of them landed. Over 90 percent of these rockets landed in uninhabited areas. Still, a thousand interceptor missiles would cost $40 million. But that would save over a hundred lives, and hundreds of injuries. A cheap price to pay, especially if you are one of the victims, or potential victims. Israel already has a radar system in place that gives some warning of approaching rockets. Iron Dome uses that system, in addition to another, more specialized radar in southern Israel.
Iron Dome has been very successful at shooting down about 90 percent of rockets headed for populated areas.