'Iron Dome is the right system to use'

Officials angered by critics who say Skyguard rocket-defense could have protected the South.

January 12, 2009 00:13
3 minute read.


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


With Israel deep into a military confrontation sparked by relentless rocket fire from Gaza, security officials are fuming over claims made by some reserve officers, scientists and other analysts in newspaper articles and at public meetings, and echoed privately by some politicians, that the US Skyguard missile defense system could have been deployed to protect the South if Israel had not abandoned its interest in the project in 2005. Former senior military officers, for instance, played up Skyguard's ostensible capabilities at a conference last week dedicated to "Protecting the Home Front." They claimed that Northrop Grumman's Skyguard, which uses lasers to shoot down incoming missiles, is cheaper, more effective and could be ready for use more quickly than the alternative being pursued by the Defense Ministry: local contractor Rafael's Iron Dome, which employs short-range rockets to intercept the incoming fire. But Defense Ministry officials bitterly reject the criticism. They note that Israel invested $120 million in the Nautilus system - the name by which Skyguard was originally known - along with $280 m. in American funding, and had every interest in its success. Far from being a better alternative to Iron Dome, however, extensive evaluation led both Israeli and American experts to conclude that Skyguard was not even a remotely viable solution to the short-range rocket threat, and both governments pulled out of the project. Last March, Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Buhris paid a visit to White Sands, New Mexico, to see the Nautilus laser system deployed there and be briefed on its upgraded version, Skyguard. Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post at the time that Buchris and his delegation were not impressed and returned convinced that the choice of Iron Dome was correct and that the US system was not feasible. Since then, the Israeli defense sources say, the difficulties associated with Skyguard, compared to the progress on Iron Dome, have only confirmed their assessment. Northrop Grumman was reported last year to have told Israel that with an investment of $180 m., it would be able to turn the heavy, land-based Nautilus system into the viable, upgraded Skyguard - a more compact and mobile system that would be ready for shipment within 18 months. But defense officials dismissed the proposal, and regard the costing as unrealistically low and the timescale as extremely optimistic, the Post has been told. Iron Dome, by contrast, the officials say, "is proceeding at a good pace," with an important intercept test scheduled for this spring, and its developers working "round the clock" with the aim of a first deployment early next year. The defense officials have also dismissed the claims made by supporters of the Nautilus - including laser expert and former Rafael employee Dr. Oded Amihai - that Iron Dome is incapable of protecting Sderot due to the short distance between Gaza and the Negev city. The officials said that Iron Dome had recently been updated and was capable of hitting incoming missiles that were fired at a range of as little as 4 kilometers and as much as 70 kilometers from their target, which would account for the overwhelming majority of rockets fired from Gaza in the current confrontation. Defense officials stress that even the best missile defense will not provide "hermetic" protection against Kassams, Grads, mortars and similar weaponry. But Iron Dome, they insist, constitutes the most realistic defense currently taking shape. If Skyguard or any other system was truly available and effective, officials say, it would be unthinkable for Israel not to obtain and deploy it to protect its citizenry. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As for the Centurion system, deployed by the US to protect bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israeli defense officials say it has only limited potential application for Israel since it is effective only in defending small, specific locations.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Jisr az-Zarq
April 3, 2014
Residents of Jisr az-Zarqa beckon Israel Trail hikers to enjoy their town