Daily Israel Report

‘Iron Dome’ May Be Good for Exports without Defending Sderot

Barak celebrated the "Iron-Dome’s” final test against incoming missiles, but the system may help exports more than it will help protect Sderot.

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 7/19/2010, 10:44 PM

The Defense Ministry, headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, celebrated the "Iron-Dome’s” final test against incoming missiles Monday night, but the system may help exports more than it will help protect Sderot.

The successful test is a coup for Barak, the government-run Rafael Advanced Defense Systems that developed it, and the Obama administration, which has pushed for $205 million in aid for them anti-missile system. Barak, who before returning to politics five years ago developed business contacts in the defense industry, has ignored criticism that the Iron Dome is costly and cannot shoot down Kassam missiles that are fired from less than two miles.

Congressional aid for the Iron Dome was encouraged last May by U.S. President Barack Obama, shortly after he gave Barak a warm welcome to Washington, in contrast to the cold shoulder that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received shortly beforehand. Presidential advisors denied reports in the Israeli media that they were trying to bolster Barak and undermine the government coalition led by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Barak has touted the Iron Dome as a system that will enable Israel to defend itself against multiple rocket attacks and has said it is necessary to protect Israel from the possibility of missile strikes from a future Palestinian Authority state in Judea and Samaria.

The Iron Dome can blow up Katyusha and longer-range Kassam rockets that have a range of nearly three miles to approximately 45 miles. The final tests proved that the system can distinguish between misfired rockets and those that are headed for populated areas, but that will not help Sderot and other Gaze Belt communities that are located less than two miles from northern Gaza, a favorite site for Hamas terrorists to launch Kassam missiles.

The cost of deploying Iron Dome also makes its defense more academic than practical. Each interception costs $10,000-$50,000 while crude Kassam rockets cost only a few hundred dollars, at most.  

Defense Minister Barak (pictured) asserted, "We will move toward operational deployment of the batteries in the field as soon as possible” and the ministry announced Monday evening that the Iron Dome can be deployed in November.

However, officials, “speaking on condition of anonymity because they were going beyond the ministry's statement,” told Fox News that budget constraints preclude Iron Dome’s being operational to protect Israel from Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in Gaza.

The Iron Dome’s success may make it very valuable for Rafael.  Paris Intelligence Online website reported earlier this year that the Iron Dome was intended for Singapore, a key trading center in Asia. The Singapore Israeli link dates back to the 1960s, when the former British colony detached itself from Malaysia and needed a military for defense against surrounding Muslim countries.

“Iron Dome will be a crucial element in Singapore's drive to build a defensive shield around one of the world's biggest and most important ports,” Space Daily reported last April.

The export potential may help explain why Barak opted to develop it instead of buying the cheaper U.S. Centurion system that already was developed and could have been deployed immediately in Gaza Belt communities.

"From the outset, Iron Dome was always intended for Singapore, which helped finance its development," Intelligence Online explained. "Iron Dome will be battle-tested in Israel ahead of export to Singapore at a late date."