from the May 2011 issue

Increasing attacks

The IDF recently reported that a General Security Service report showed increased number of terrorist attacks against Israel "on all fronts" since February. The IDF stated that attacks, in particular, were on the rise "in the Gaza Strip where there was a sharp increase in the level of rocket and mortar fire at Israel, including Grad rockets that landed in Ashkelon and Be'er Sheba. Overall, there were 50 terrorist attacks in the Gaza area in March compared to 18 during the previous month."

As a response to various attacks on Israeli civilians during the past months, including the use of anti-tank missiles and mortar shells, Israel decided in late March to deploy the Iron Dome system to the Be'er Sheba region. The Iron Dome system is built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd in collaboration with ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of the Israel Aerospace Industry, as well as the IDF.

The system comprises a radar system built by ELTA, a control center, and interceptor missile batteries built by Rafael. The interceptor missile, dubbed Tamir, is equipped with electro-optic sensors and several steering fins, offering high maneuverability. Each such interceptor is estimated to cost about $35,000 to $50,000.

The Iron Dome radar detects and identifies incoming rocket or artillery shell launches and monitors their trajectory. The target data is transmitted to the Battle Management & Weapon Control (BMC) for processing. The threat's trajectory is analyzed and the expected impact point can then be determined. If the estimated rocket trajectory represents a critical threat, a command is given within a fraction of a second and an interceptor is launched against the threat. The interceptor receives constant trajectory updates from the BMC via uplink communication, approaches the target and then uses its radar seeker to acquire the target and guide itself within passing distance of the target. The threat is then eliminated in mid-air, well away from the protected area.

According to the IDF, the system is still considered to be "undergoing an operational trial." Nevertheless, Thursday's intercepts have proven the system's capabilities in an operational environment.

Israeli rocket defense technology already had a chance to prove its worth in early March, when an anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF tank in the southern Gaza Strip. The incoming missile was automatically intercepted by the tank's Trophy active defense system (also known as the "Windbreaker"). Being the system's first operational use, it countered the missile without any casualties on the IDF's side.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report May 2011

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