BISS – Wie effektiv ist die Iron-Dome-Flab?

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14. Mai 2021. Bisher militärisch das Bild des Konfliktes: Links Iron-Dome-Abwehr, rechts Hamas-Raketen.

In der Nacht zum 17. Mai 2021 meldet die israelische Armee den 3’000. feindlichen Raketen-Abschuss auf die eigene Zivilbevölkerung. Gleichzeitig schreibt sie dem Iron-Dome-Flab-System eine Abschussrate von gut 90% zu. Denselben Erfolg bescheinigt den Abwehrraketen die staatliche Herstellerfirma Rafael. Anderseits muss Israel zur Kenntnis nehmen:

  • Hamas und Islamischer Jihad stellen aus dem Gazastreifen die israelische Verteidigung auf eine Bewährungsprobe, wie sie in dieser Form das Land noch nie zu bestehen hatte.
  • Auch der 34-tägige Zweite Libanonkrieg im Sommer 2006 wurde vom Gegner, der Hisbollah, als Raketenkrieg geführt. Die schiitische Terrorarmee schoss in jenen fast sieben Wochen gut 4’000 Raketen nach Galiläa – unpräzis, mit begrenzter Reichweite. Wohl lag die Hafen- und Raffineriestadt Haifa im Schussbereich. Aber die Agglomeration Tel Aviv war noch nicht gefährdet.
  • Jetzt durchbrechen immer wieder Hamas-Raketen den Schutzschirm. Für ein abschliessendes Urteil über Iron Dome ist es zu früh.
  • Unbestritten ist: Ohne Iron Dome würde die Bevölkerung im Negev (Sderot, Beersheva, auch in den Kibbuzim), entlang der Küste (Ashkalon, Ashdod) und in Zentralisrael (betroffen ist die ganze Agglometation Tel Aviv) viel stärker leiden als derzeit schon. Dennoch lohnt es sich, Texte unbefangener Experten zu lesen. Im Internetdienst von “Forbes” findet sich die folgende Analyse des Briten David Hambling.
  • Man beachte auch die Bilder: Hie das israelische High-Tech-System, dort die archaische Hamas-Stellung.

Abschuss einer Tamir-Rakete von Iron Dome.

Tamir-Abschuss von einem Schiff der israelischen Marine.

Iron Dome: The Problem With Israel’s Rocket Shield

 

As the conflict between Hamas and Israel flares up, social media has filled with sci-fi-looking videos of glowing interceptor missiles rising into the night sky to take out incoming rockets in a burst of flame. Comments like “Star Wars” and “alien invasion vibes” abound when describing the Iron Dome defense system.

What is actually going on is a struggle between very high-tech and very low-tech forces, pitting state-of-the-art Israeli systems against simple home-made rockets. But Israel’s high-tech may not be enough.

The Iron Dome, made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, carried out its first intercept ten years ago. The company claim it has intercepted more than 2.500 threats with a success rate of greater than 90%. Iron Dome comprises a series of detection and tracking radars, manned Battle Management and Weapon Control Centers and unmanned missile firing units. The units are dispersed, allowing Iron Dome to cover the maximum area.

Iron Dome includes a set of radar, battle management and weapon control, and remote missile launch.

Iron Dome is highly effective, and the vast majority of the rockets recently fired by Hamas were intercepted. However, some got through, with reports of Israelis killed and dozens more injured.

The rockets on the other side are less sophisticated. One of the original names proposed for Iron Dome was Anti-Qassam, Qassam being the term for the rockets made by Hamas. These have become larger over the years but their design is unchanged. The rockets are locally produced, the main component being the body, which is a length of steel or aluminum piping with fins welded on to it. This is filled with rocket fuel made by mixing fertilizer with melted sugar. The rocket is fitted with a warhead of home-made explosive, and the detonator added.

A Qassam rocket has no guidance system, and is fired from a simple metal frame, also home-made. The original version was about six feet long and weighed eighty pounds with an eighteen-pound warhead, but only had a range of two miles. The biggest now weigh more than a hundred pounds – still small enough to be set up and launched by two men — and has a range of over twenty miles. However, even these are much smaller than the Tamir missiles intercepting them, and cost just a few hundred dollars.

Qassams are generally fired in salvos. They are extremely inaccurate and can only be fired in the general direction of the target; hitting anything is a matter of luck rather than judgement. The crude warheads do little damage compared to more modern weapons. Their effect is mainly on morale, forcing the targets to interrupt their lives and hide in shelters when the alert sounds.

Hamas also has limited supplies of 122mm Grad rockets, the type elsewhere fired from Russian truck-mounted multiple-launchers, and other imported military hardware. These are also fired individually from the ground rather than from vehicles.

Iron Dome has been largely successful in preventing Hamas rockets from causing serious casualties to date. But is has its weaknesses: the system has a high but unknown ‘saturation point’ the maximum number of rockets it can deal with at one time. If this number is exceeded, the excess rockets will get through. The recent attacks look like an attempt to overwhelm the system with more rockets than ever. The IDF claims that some 850 rockets have been fired since the start of the latest escalation.

Die Tamir-Rakete von Rafael. Die hebräische Aufschrift bedeutet Rafael.

Also, the supply of Tamir missiles is finite, and they are expensive, whereas Hamas has reportedly stockpiled thousands of Qassams and other weapons. Sometimes Iron Dome launches two missiles against one rocket to ensure an intercept. If the defenders run out of interceptors, casualties could escalate rapidly. This may motivate military action to counter the rocket launchers.

Iron Dome’s effectiveness may even be a strategic weakness, according a 2016 study by RAND. Because the Hamas rocket offensives cause so little damage by comparison, any Israeli military response is seen as disproportionate and heavy-handed.

Defensive measures alone will not be enough to stop the attacks, and the reliance on Iron Dome means that if it fails – and the government is seen not to have defended its people – there will be serious consequences. On the other hand, a ground offensive to take on the source of the rockets could also result in a massive number of deaths and global political ramifications. The problem with a defense this good is that you can rely on it too much.