What is Israel's Iron Dome? The air defence system intercepting missiles

Iron Dome is designed to shoot down incoming projectiles and is one of the most important tools in Israel's arsenal


Israel's Iron Dome system is critical to the country's formidable defence.

More than 300 projectiles were fired toward Israel in an aerial attack overnight on April 13,, but "99%" of them were shot down by the aerial defence systems and its "partners", according to the Israeli military.

An Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson confirmed, as a result of the interceptions, only "a small number" of the ballistics reached the country's territory causing minimal damage.

What is Israel's Iron Dome and how does it work?

Iron Dome is designed to shoot down incoming projectiles and is one of the most important tools in Israel's arsenal.

It is highly effective and is said to have saved countless civilian lives over several conflicts in the last decade.

The IDF said the system boasted a 95.6% success rate during a rocket salvo fired by Islamist Jihad in May, 2023.

The home-grown system is meant to shoot down rockets and artillery shells with ranges of up to 45 miles.

Iron Dome allows the army to predict the flight path of incoming rockets and uses a command-and-control system to quickly calculate whether a projectile poses a threat or is likely to hit an unpopulated area.

If the rocket does pose a threat, it relays coordinates to missile units and the Iron Dome fires missiles from the ground to destroy in the air.

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

Unlike the air defence systems designed to stop ballistic missiles, Iron Dome targets unguided rockets that remain at low altitudes - the type often fired by militant groups in Gaza.

In May last year, Iron Dome intercepted rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel. Credit: AP

When was the system introduced?

Iron Dome was commissioned soon after Israel's 2006 conflict with Hezbollah when dozens of Israelis were killed as rockets showered the country from neighbouring Lebanon.

Development began in 2007, and after tests in 2008 and 2009, the first Iron Dome batteries were deployed in 2011.

The system has been upgraded several times since.

Where is it based?

There are 10 Iron Dome batteries across Israel - including in Tel Aviv - each of which has three to four launchers, according to Raytheon and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

The system is highly transportable and requires just a few hours to set up, and the missile interceptors themselves are easy to move.

They are three metres long and weigh around 198 pounds at launch, the security analysis group IHS Jane's said in 2012.

The warhead's range is from 4km to 70km (2.5 miles to 43 miles).

Is it expensive?

Very. During times of conflict, the cost to operate Iron Dome can rise quickly.

Each missile costs around $40,000 (£32,600) so intercepting thousands of incoming rockets adds up.

The US government has spent over $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) on the Iron Dome programme, and research related to it as well.


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