The Iron Dome is an air and missile defense system developed by Israel-based defense company Rafael and commissioned by the Israeli government. Iron Dome was developed to intercept enemy rockets in response to their favored use by terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The Iron Dome's initial deployment was in 2011, just before Operation Pillar of Defense. 10 batteries came into service with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) by 2021. The US military has partnered with Israel to manufacture and develop aspects of the system, with an eye toward adopting the platform itself.
Each Iron Dome battery consists of three parts, a detection system, a command post, and launch tubes. When an enemy launches a rocket, the battery detects the projectile, and determines if the trajectory of an enemy rocket poses a threat, so teams engage only if there is imminent danger to a population center. A Tamir interceptor missile is then launched at the target, and knocks it from the sky. Usually, a single Tamir missile is launched per interception, but for heavier rockets, two Tamirs are launched for each interception. Each battery can hold 20 missiles at a time.
The system has undergone significant improvement since it was first introduced. In May 2021 the IDF reported that the Iron Dome boasted a 90% interception rate. The defense system has also since been used to intercept more than just rockets -- it has successfully stopped mortar bombs and drones.
Each battery is estimated to cost as much as $50 million. Many estimates for the cost of Tamir interceptors are around $40,000-$50,000, but an American army missile budget listed each unit at around $163,000. This means an interception could cost as little as $40,000 and as much as $326,000.
Iron Dome is not a hermetic seal, and while it has successfully intercepted hundreds of rockets, terrorist organizations have adjusted their practices to capitalize on the system's weaknesses. Sufficiently sized rocket barrages can overwhelm the limited capacity of the Iron Dome.
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