Iran‘s possible nuclear program is dominating news from the Middle-East because Israel knows if it perfects a thermonuclear device, Tehran likely has the ability to deliver it aboard some of its current missiles.
Israel thinks this is too great a threat for it to allow.
The Jewish state has worked with the U.S. over the years to develop a pretty comprehensive missile defense system and we’ve outlined a rough version of it here, along with Iran’s biggest threats.
While Israel’s system strives to be fully comprehensive in its defense, if any of Iran’s rockets were strapped with a nuclear device — or if Iran could hand deliver a device into Israel — none of this preparation would mean much at all.
The homemade Qassam rocket has already been sent into Israel
They’re a very, very basic type of missile, propelled by a solid mixture of potassium nitrate fertilizer mixed with sugar. The warhead is typically scavenged TNT or urea nitrate. They have no guidance mechanism beyond aiming, and an estimated 2,048 were fired into Israel in 2008.
Grad missiles have killed 22 people since 2000
These rockets have a range of 20 kilometers, but are typically fired from a moving launcher, greatly expanding their abilities.
The Grad rockets, with the improvised Qassam rockets, have caused some of the most pain in Israel, claiming the lives of 22 citizens since 2000.
The Sejjil missile is capable of striking Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv, Israel is roughly 1,600 kilometers from Tehran, Iran. That, for all intent and purposes, is the magic number here; a central point in Iran to a central point in Israel is roughly 1,600 km. These are the ballistic missiles that can allegedly make that trip.
The Sejjil missile is a solid-fueled Iranian surface-to-surface missile that is roughly 58 feet long and can travel between 2000 and 2500 kilometers, bringing Israel well within its range.
That missile is strikingly similar to the Iranian Ashoura missile, with an alleged range of 2,000 km. That medium ranged ballistic missile has been in service since November 1997.
The Shabab-3 missile can also reach deep into Israel from Iran and carries multiple warheads
(Yes, it’s photoshopped. But still, at least one of these is the Shabab-3
The original Shabab-3 missile should only reach 1,280 km, but the upgraded Medium Range Ballistic missile version can allegedly reach up to 1,950 kilometers.
The Fajr-3 missile is likewise a medium range Ballistic missile, but it has the ability to launch multiple reentry vehicles. What does that mean? A single rocket can release multiple warheads, each aimed at the same target in the hope that the multiple warheads overwhelm the missile defense system.
Essentially, Israel would have to contend with these long and short-range threats
Rocket fires from the Gaza strip
Both a long-range ballistic missile assault and a short range rocket attack. Then, provided the air defense worked, retaliation.
They’ve been preparing for the long range threat for some time, and that’s one area where the U.S. has been of some assistance. However, the short range rockets were an unexpected development for the Israel Defense Forces, and they had to adapt quickly to protect population centers.
Israel’s existing air defense system is made up of three main parts
The Israel Defense Forces have three main ways to take out an incoming missile
- The Iron Dome is the first tier of aerial defense designed to take out mortars and short range rockets incoming from the Gaza territories
- The Patriot missile system, acquired from the United States, is designed to intercept aircraft and incoming medium range missiles.
- The Arrow Anti-Ballistic missile defense system is designed to take out incoming long range ballistic missiles. It’s capable of destroying the missiles when they’re outside the atmosphere.
The Iron Dome is the first line of defense
The Iron Dome is made up of a tracking radar, a command console and a missile launcher. It is designed to take out those Qassam improvised rockets.
The Iron Dome is largely successful because the IDF prioritizes incoming missiles. If a Qassam missile is poised to land in an uninhabited region, the IDF would instead target a missile poised to strike a populated city.
The system has been very effective at minimizing the domestic impact of the Qassam missile. Iron Dome went from conceptualization to reality in four short years, nearly unprecedented for a defense project. The U.S. has provided funding and support, and is getting some systems in the future.
Even though it was designed in the sixties, the Patriot system is still decades ahead of the incoming missile’s tech
The United States first deployed the Patriot missile defense system in 1984. It’s made up of a stationary launcher that can hold four missiles and a command and control center that implements the missiles. The scanning radar enables the system to identify, target, and take out incoming aircraft or medium range missiles.
Since the initial deployment, a large number of upgrades have been added into the system to keep it modern.
Still, given that the Patriot systems would be hypothetically aimed for incoming F-14 Tomcats or ex-Soviet ballistic missiles, the Reagan-era tech should be more than capable of overcoming the most devastating parts of the retro-assault.
The Arrow Missile System can take out those long range threats from a hypothetical Iranian bombardment
The Arrow missile system has been operational since 2000. The United States and Israel developed the air defense system together, and it remains Israel’s primary long range air defense system.
The system has demonstrated that it can take out a ballistic missile when it is outside the atmosphere. While the Iron Dome has mostly seen deployment in the south of Israel to defend from the most consistent short range rocket threat, the Arrow system is being deployed in the center of the country to maximize aerial protection.
It is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing.
David’s Sling, when complete, will complement the Iron Dome system by hitting medium sized threats
The David’s Sling missile is being jointly developed by the Israeli contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and American contractor Raytheon.
The missile is designed to intercept medium to long range rockets and some cruise missiles, and in general to aid the Iron Dome in defending Israeli air space.
The idea is that David’s Sling would take care of rockets and cruise missile that exceed the speed and range of the Iron Dome system but are too small to warrant the use of the Arrow system. It’s currently being tested before full integration.
It’s worth noting that there is a small but important American military presence in Israel
The only foreign troops stationed in Israel are a force of Americans manning a Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) X-band radar system on Mt. Keren in the Negev desert.
What does this mean? Well, the THAAD system is one of the best aerial defense systems in the world. If anything goes into the air in the region, Americans will know about it before anyone else, even the Israelis.
This — as well as multiple aircraft carriers and destroyers already placed in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean — could give Israel the extra firepower it needs to deter and retaliate against an attack.