Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor has shot down some 90 percent of Palestinian rockets it engaged during this week’s surge of Gaza fighting, up from 85 percent in the 2012 fighting, Israeli and U.S. officials said on Thursday.
Seven batteries of the system, made by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and partly funded by Washington, have been rotated around Israel to tackle unprecedented long-range salvoes by Hamas.
Rafael said it had been working on improvements to Iron Dome, designed to fire guided missiles at rockets that threaten to hit populated areas while ignoring others.
There have been few injuries and no fatalities from rockets that hit towns or cities — results that also reflect Israel’s extensive investment in air raid sirens and shelters.
“We’ve been constantly fine-tuning the programming of the system, including during the fighting. Our engineers are on the ground, with the military crews, analyzing each interception and making adjustments to get the best results,” said a Rafael spokesman.
Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert, also credited accrued experience in using the system.
“Iron Dome’s successes are the result of a variety of factors, including practice, and the rates could get even better,” Rubin said. But given the 10 percent failure rate, he cautioned Israelis against complacency, saying “Even the best-maintained car eventually gets a flat tire.”
Israel said that of more than 320 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, at least 72 were intercepted while most of the rest fell in open areas.
Addressing a Tel Aviv conference hosted by Israel Defense magazine on Monday, Avi Serfaty, deputy general manager of Iron Dome radar manufacturer Elta, said the system could now provide defense at distances of up to 95 miles, potentially allowing more versatile use of batteries deployed nationwide.
Elta is a subsidiary of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.