Panetta Reaffirms US Commitment to Irone Dome

The U.S. and Israel hailed the performance of Iron Dome defense system in combating recent attacks launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

U. S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
U. S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

The United States and Israel on Thursday hailed the performance of the Iron Dome missile defense system in combating the recent attacks launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, as Washington reaffirmed its commitment to the program.

The highly acclaimed Israeli anti-missile system played a prominent role in the eight-day confrontation between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorists that ended with a November 21 ceasefire deal.

"Iron Dome really changed the landscape of the conflict and enabled us to act forcefully within a short time frame," said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a Pentagon news conference with his U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta, where he was awarded the highest award he could be given by a U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Due to the system, "only 55 rockets out of the 1,500 ended up falling in urban areas," he said, noting that about 85 percent of the interceptions succeeded.

It was "extremely successful" against salvos of rockets and in extrapolating their trajectory, avoiding the "wasting" of a missile on a rocket headed to an uninhabited area, Barak added, according to AFP.

"The very knowing of the other side that you have such an effective system, especially when it will be equipped with many more interceptors -- it will change the balance of contemplation on the other side," he said.

"That's created a kind of logical kind of deterrent."

Panetta, meanwhile assured Barak that Washington's "strong commitment to Iron Dome will continue" and that the Pentagon will work closely with Israel's defense ministry to "ensure that we are making the necessary investments."

"Iron Dome performed, I think it's fair to say, remarkably well during the recent escalation," Panetta said. "Iron Dome does not start wars. It helps prevent wars."

Washington has already spent $205 million to finance the system and has announced an additional contribution of $70 million in May.

Each Iron Dome battery has a radar detection and tracking system, a firing control system and three launchers for 20 interception missiles. Each has a range of between four and 70 kilometers (2.5 and 44 miles).