Is the Iron Dome effective?

The claim that Israel has not provided the US with accurate data on the Iron Dome’s performance is ridiculous.

Iron Dome displayed at Ben Gurion airport 370 (photo credit: Alon Basson/Defense Ministry)
Iron Dome displayed at Ben Gurion airport 370
(photo credit: Alon Basson/Defense Ministry)
Dr. Theodore Postol, a professor at MIT, claimed in his Haaretz article on March 31 that contrary to the Defense Ministry claim that the Iron Dome has succeeded in intercepting more than 80 percent of rockets launched into Israeli population centers during November’s Pillar of Defense operation, the actual proportion never exceeded 10 percent.
Postol based his claim on video clips of the launches that were shown in the media and on the Internet, as well as on the number of property damage claims submitted to the Treasury’s Compensation Fund.
He accuses the IDF of concealing the facts by not revealing the location of rockets that fell on Israeli soil that were not intercepted by the Iron Dome, arguing that disclosure of these locations would not pose a security risk. Finally, Postol goes a step further and accuses the government of providing Israeli and US citizens with false information.
This could not be farther from the truth. Postol’s “analysis” of these public video clips and his underestimation of the Iron Dome’s effectiveness are meaningless and his conclusions are completely baseless.
In those clips, only the Iron Dome’s trail of smoke can be seen. The Grad rocket that it is about to intercept, however, cannot be seen.
To assess whether the Iron Dome’s missile successfully hit the Grad rocket, the trajectories of both must be observed, which is possible only through a full sky image obtained from sophisticated security sensors in which both projectiles can be observed simultaneously. This information is never released to the public since it would reveal the IDF’s discovery and tracking capabilities.
In short, the Israel Air Force, the Defense Ministry and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have studied each and every interception completely, and the results are conclusive: The Iron Dome’s success rate is as published.
Postol’s claim that disclosure of the locations in which Grad missiles escaped Iron Dome interception and hit Israeli soil would not help the enemy improve its accuracy indicates more than anything else his lack of understanding of missile warfare. A barrage of Grad rockets that is aimed at a specific point is liable to strike anywhere up to a kilometer from that point. Although the enemy cannot control where the rocket lands, it has full control over which point it aims the cluster of rockets at and can change it by tilting, raising or lowering the multiple rocket launcher.
Our enemies in Gaza and Lebanon try to pick points that fall right in the center of Israeli cities so that all the cluster rockets fall within the most densely populated areas and cause the maximum number of casualties and damage, but often they are not successful.
Errors made by the enemy in choosing a center point can result in most or even all of the rockets missing population centers and failing to inflict significant damage. Publicizing the exact location of these hits would help the enemy improve its aim and thereby raise the number of casualties and amount of damage. Publicizing this information would endanger the lives and property of Israeli citizens.
Postol argues that Hamas already knows where the points of impacts are, from “people who could visit these places within the range” (i.e. spies). I suggest that he try to find the locations that were hit – then he would realize how hard it is.
In any event, even if that were the case, why should Israel help Hamas by giving it this information on a silver platter just to satisfy a distinguished professor living in peaceful Massachusetts, far from the Gaza rockets? Postol also claims that the high number of property damage claims following Pillar of Defense proves that the Iron Dome’s success rate must be lower than that reported, since in his opinion it is unlikely that such a small number of hits would cause such a large number of claims. It turns out that he did not bother to compare this number with data from previous attacks, and therefore could not know how many claims are reasonable.
In the Second Lebanon War in 2006, for example, 4,000 rockets were launched into unprotected areas in northern Israel, a quarter of which hit in populated areas. More than 30,000 property damage claims were subsequently submitted.
In Pillar of Defense, 1,500 similar types of rockets were fired into Israel, a third of which hit or would have hit populated areas. A simple calculation shows that if the Iron Dome system were not in place, the number of property claims would have reached 14,400. In actuality, only 3,165 claims for submitted, one-fifth of the number that would be expected if the Iron Dome were not operational – further evidence that the system has a high interception rate. Just as Balaam in the Book of Numbers tries to curse the Israelites but only blessings come out of his mouth, so too is Postol trying to curse us, but ends up blessing us.
His claim that Israel has not provided the US with accurate data on the Iron Dome’s performance is ridiculous. Anyone who has had any contact with the US government knows that it would never agree to allocate such a large amount of funding to manufacture Iron Dome systems without carefully checking their performance.
And the US has a state comptroller, too.
Finally, Postol’s accusation that Israel has been lying to its citizens and to its greatest ally – the US – does not even merit a response. To the distinguished professor I say: Those who unjustifiably reject others because of a particular defect, usually suffer from this defect themselves.
The author served as the first director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Defense Ministry.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.