Iron Dome Almost Shot Down Israeli F-15 in Gaza Fighting

The Iron Dome missile defense system in action against rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, over Ashkelon, May 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

An Iron Dome missile nearly shot down an Israeli F-15 fighter jet during the Gaza fighting last May, the Israel Air Force confirmed on Wednesday following local media reports.

There were varying accounts. According to Channel 12 news, an interceptor, fired at a rocket launched from Gaza, accidentally locked onto an F-15 flying over the Strip.

The errant interceptor was detonated by Iron Dome operators moments before hitting the jet, the report said, and noting that it was so close that shrapnel from the interceptor hit the plane.

A Channel 13 report said the interceptor was fired deliberately at the F-15, after misidentifying it as a Hamas rocket coming in from Gaza.

It was “a miracle” that nobody was hurt, the report said.

The military acknowledged that there had been a close call, and said that lessons were being learned from the incident.

“This is a complex incident, in which the Air Force is required to intercept rockets and at the same time attack Gaza,” the military said in a statement to Channel 12. “We are investigating the incident to make improvements, as well as continuing to carry out missions for the sake of the safety of those in Israel.”

Concern in the military goes beyond that of the case of the F-15. According to Haaretz, confidence in the Iron Dome’s ability to differentiate between hostile and non-hostile aircraft was the main reason an international aviation authority agreed to allow Israel to keep its airspace open to commercial flights during the fighting.

During Operation Guardian of the Walls — the IDF’s name for the 11 days of hostilities that began on May 10 — Gaza terror groups fired more than 4,300 rockets at Israel, many of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, which proved over 90 percent effective.

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