A missile is launched by an Iron Dome battery on July 11 in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. Three Gaza rockets were shot down over the Tel Aviv area as Hamas militants claimed they had fired M75 missiles at the Israeli city's airport. (David Buimovitch / AFP)
WASHINGTON — Israel fielded its seventh Iron Dome intercepting battery under fire last week in an operational debut that destroyed five Gaza-launched rockets headed for the nation’s economic and cultural heart of Tel Aviv.
In its escalating campaign against Hamas and other Gaza-based groups, the Israeli-developed and US-funded Iron Dome — with an estimated success rate of 90 percent — is demonstrating game-changing value against asymmetrical threats, Israeli officials say.
The July 10 interception over Tel Aviv by Israel’s newest Iron Dome battery averted strategic tailwind for Hamas, which claimed credit for the attack that could have triggered a full-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza, Israeli sources said.
That critical interception and 100 others scored by Iron Dome since the July 7 start of Operation Protective Edge highlights the “strategic significance” of active defenses in Israel’s battle against more than 10,000 Gaza-based rockets threatening nearly three quarters of the country.
As of press time on July 11, no Israelis had been killed in more than 400 Gaza-launched rocket attacks. In contrast, Israeli air, land and sea-based strikes against more than 1,100 targets throughout the strip killed nearly 100 uninvolved Palestinians, most of them women and children.
In July 11 talks with executives from Rafael, Iron Dome prime contractor, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), producer of the system’s multimission radar, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon credited Iron Dome for its “impressive performance” and “strategic significance” in the ongoing campaign.
“First and foremost, it saves lives and grants us expanded opportunities for managing the campaign against Hamas,” Ya’alon said. “And it sends a message to countries and organizations amassing huge quantities of rockets and missiles” for terrorist purposes.
As Rafael works on the eighth battery in parallel to fast-tracked production of intercepting missiles, it is preparing to receive the first Defense Ministry procurement contract for US-based builds in support of Iron Dome.
The firm recently finalized an agreement making Raytheon its US partner in co-production of major components for the Iron Dome’s Tamir intercepting missile.
The US firm will supply components through various subcontractors, government and industry sources said.
Congress conditioned more than $680 million in previously approved Iron Dome procurement funding on a work-sharing agreement for US-based production. In a mid-May visit to Israel, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted that the US investment in Iron Dome was nearly $900 million.
Raytheon spokesman John Patterson referred questions to Israel’s MoD, which declined to comment. ■