Editor’s note (TR): This is a guest post by Ron Tira. Ron is a lieutenant colonel, former fighter pilot in the IAF, and author of the book The Nature of War. He is currently a businessman and a reservist at the Israeli Air Force’s Campaign Planning Department. He sends the following reflection with a picture of an incoming missile, taken in front of his house this morning.
This is why I was never very keen on anti-missile defence systems. They are of course a “nice to have” thing, or so I thought, but as in the real world resources are always insufficient and you can’t have it all, hence offensive means should always take priority. Israel’s anti-missile defence system seemed to be not much more than a multi-billion dollar pacifier for infants, metaphorically speaking. (In the case of critical national infrastructure, such as power stations, and critical military hubs, like airfields, C3I etc, the defensive calculus would of course be different. These targets should be defended to enable the offense.)
The problems with situations like the current one is that the enemy choses to fire from amongst its own civilians at our civilians, without showing up for major battles that can be won.
Lets look at the figures of the current engagement — so far.
Hamas so far fired 500+ rockets. Iron Dome is a selective system, defending only populated areas. It will not defend open fields, orchards, or the sea. Even in populated areas it is selective: it will not defend city parks, and will defends schools and shopping centers at midday but not at midnight, etc. So far, the manufacturer provided the IAF with only four Iron Dome batteries. The fifth will be supplied tomorrow night. Iron Dome’s footprint is therefore still limited, and it cannot yet defend the entire threatened area. For this reason, the batteries are being moved around and their location kept secret, in an attempt not to hint where the cracks in the defence are.
Iron Dome could and chose to engage about 150 incoming threats. The kill rate amongst those is close to 100%. Only 26 incoming rockets actually fell in populated areas. Most of them in cracks between the Iron Dome batteries. Almost no rocket fell on a populated area which is within the current footprint of Iron Dome. The impact on Israel so far is driven by only 26 rockets that actually fell on populated areas. Had the other 150 fell on populated areas, the picture might have been very different.