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  • Iron Dome and U.S. Takeaways for Missile Defense

    In the past two weeks, the terrorist organization Hamas launched about a thousand ballistic missiles on Israel. Since then, the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system has occupied the front pages of the media.

    The system managed to intercept about 300 missiles and evaluated that about additional 700 missiles did not threaten civilian populations or other high-value areas and therefore did not need to be intercepted. This experience confirms that the missile defense criterion of cost effectiveness has been defined too narrowly in the U.S.

    For more than three decades, most U.S. decision makers argued that each ballistic missile defense interceptor must be less expensive than an adversary’s missile. In the case of Iron Dome, one Tamir interceptor costs about $50,000, many times more than a Hamas rocket.

    Yet this calculation does not take into account the value of the protected area or the costs associated with restoring the area after an incoming missile destroys it. The Iron Dome experience also shows that it is not necessary to shoot down all incoming missiles, but just the ones that threaten what the leadership values.

    Beyond physical protection of important assets, Iron Dome provides the Israelis with the space and time to decide on the most appropriate course of action following a ballistic missile attack. Without the missile defense system, Israel could either absorb an attack or conduct retaliatory strikes against its enemies. As The Wall Street Journal sums up, “If missiles were landing willy-nilly in Israeli cities, the pressure would be great either for a ground incursion into Gaza, or a possibly humiliating accommodation with Hamas.”

    It is essential that the U.S. support further development of the system. President Obama took an important step when he signed the United States–Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act. The House of Representatives version of the National Defense Authorization Act provides $680 million to fund the Iron Dome system over fiscal years (FY) 2012 through 2015.

    Such an increase strengthens the Israeli and U.S. deterrence posture and opens up an opportunity for making Iron Dome a joint U.S.–Israeli production program. Such a program would be one of several appropriate ways to advance U.S.–Israeli security interests in the region.

    With the exception of the U.S.–Israeli cooperative effort, the U.S. missile defense program has suffered significant setbacks in recent years. The Obama Administration cancelled the Airborne Laser, Multiple Kill Vehicle, and Kinetic Energy Interceptor programs and proposed $1.6 billion in cuts in FY 2010 compared to the prior year’s budget estimate.

    The Administration has also virtually ignored the space-based missile defense systems and the threat of short-range ballistic missiles launched off the U.S. coasts from either surface ships or submarines—modes of deployment that U.S. adversaries have tested already. Such an attack could cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which would damage or destroy all electronic devices within the line of sight.

    The U.S. should develop tools to protect itself from the ballistic missile threat and a potential EMP attack. As Iron Dome shows, the benefits go beyond protecting civilian lives and property.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Iron Dome and U.S. Takeaways for Missile Defense

    1. Duane says:

      The path to missile defense we're on is more than adequate against the likely adversaries who would turn to a kinetic course of action. The administration has made smart choices based on the most likely threat – not the full gambit of possibilities, and this is responsible stewardship. The key to operating a strong defense in an austere economic environment is making critical choices.

    2. Duane says:

      The Pentagon often makes elaborate requirements (including the space based systems which require far more R&D to be viable), but the solution is not to provide them funding to accommodate those requirements – that’s like disciplining a spoiled child by providing more toys. The solution is to force the Pentagon to make hard choices on what is crucial for the strategic landscape, and funding is an effective check valve to ensuring they change their paradigm. The Airborne Laser was one of those hard decisions – 16 years and over $5 billion dollars in development, but as pointed out in the National Research Council’s analysis of Boost Phase Ballistic Missile Defense, this program lacked good system engineering and analysis.

    3. Duane says:

      As a result, the MDA wisely cut the program but applied the research toward smaller, more survivable directed energy weapons – a better choice than an easily targeted 747. The Exoatmostpheric Kill Vehicle is a proven system and networked defense with allies such as Australia, the UK, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, etc. is a way to leverage the strength of multiple economies who have a vested interest in area defense, while increasing the probability of kill because of the increase in sensors, and btw prompting an incerase in foreign military sales since our systems have the greatest track record – FTI-01 demonstrated that 3 weeks ago. Bravo to a progressive administration who understands the importance of holistic government, global strike, small footprints and yes, missile defense – the EPAA, after all, was President Obama's initiative.

    4. Dave says:

      Maybe soon we'll be buying Israeli missile technology and EMP technology. They certainly have the motivation to improve performance and reduce cost.

      • Mike says:

        They don't have a motivation to decrease cost if the US is paying for the system.

        • elle says:

          israel paid its own way for the r&d and the first two batteries of iron dome.
          us financed the rest 3 batteries,and plans to do more,it is only fair to put things
          in the right perspective.also for what amount of money the us did give israel
          it is getting the plans of the iron dome system,you cant bit that.

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