November 27, 2012

November 27, 2012 Iron Dome: Technion Brainpower Keeping Israel Safe

Iron Dome interceptor missiles
Iron Dome missiles

ATS – November 27, 2012 – By Kevin Hattori

As the recent conflict in Israel and Gaza escalated, more and more news reports  included mentions of “Iron Dome,” the defensive anti-missile system that saved  countless lives on both sides. Developed largely by a team of Technion-Israel Institute  of Technology graduates employed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the system  intercepted and destroyed more than 420 missiles headed toward Israel, with a success  rate of 90 percent.

Such a system was first conceived of in 2004, when the Israel Ministry of Defense  issued a call for proposals for a system to intercept short-range rockets. A team of  experts in the Ministry’s R&D Agency (MAFAT) assessed a total of 24 proposals, and  Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ Iron Dome, capable of operating in all weather  conditions, was selected as the most suitable.

Technion graduates made up a large majority of the Iron Dome development team,  which should come as little surprise since 80 percent of the engineers at Rafael are  Technion alumni.   The system was developed in a 30-month time frame, and at a cost  of just 1/8 that of the system that preceded it.

“We couldn’t have done it without Technion graduates,” said Rafael CEO Yedidya Ya’ari  in a 2010 interview.

Iron Dome works by identifying aerial threats (mainly rockets) and eliminating them  autonomously (i.e. without outside controls).   It then uses a sensor to locate the threat,  and a command and control center to analyze the rocket’s trajectory and its damage  potential.   If that center determines that a missile has damage potential, a missile is fired to eliminate that threat.   If the missile is determined to NOT have  potential for damage, it is ignored.

Iron Dome can detect and intercept rockets and artillery shells headed for population  centers within a 43.4-mile (70 kilometer) range, with a success rate between 80 and 90  percent.   This is especially amazing when considering that the incoming missiles are  often comprised of makeshift components, giving them “wobbly” trajectories.

One engineer who played a key role in the Iron Dome’s development likened these  incoming missiles as “…coke bottle(s) flying several times faster than the speed of  sound on an irregular course. Intercepting (them) seems far fetched.”