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  • The Iron Dome Story

    Posted by David Foster on November 28th, 2012 (All posts by )

    An interesting article about the development of this Israeli weapons system at the WSJ.

    The American Sidewinder air-to-air missile system was also initially developed in something of a skunkworks environment. (Management consultant Tom Peters has used Sidewinder as a good example of successful skunkwork innovation, IIRC, though I can’t find a link at the moment)

    Somewhat related: My post about Bernard Schriever and the development of the American ICBM.

     

    22 Responses to “The Iron Dome Story”

    1. Bill Brandt Says:

      I’m getting an “available only to subscribers” msg David. On the sidewinder as I recall it was developed on a shoestring at China Lake outside the normal Navy procurement program. The Navy was reluctant to take it in the late 50s (1956?) and today – its variants are still in use.

    2. David Foster Says:

      Bill…the message was from the WSJ Iron Dome link, or the Air & Space Mag Sidewinder link?

      I’m a WSJ subscriber so am never sure what’s behind the paywall and what’s not.

    3. Mike K Says:

      I was watching an episode of “Pawn Stars,” just about the only TV show I watch that isn’t sports. A guy came in with the nose unit of a sidewinder. The pawn shop guy, Rick, was very worried about whether it was legal to own.

      When I worked at Douglas, I worked on the Nike Zeus system. That was 1959 and there was great doubt that a missile could be designed to “hit a bullet with a bullet.” Iron Dome shows it can be.

    4. David Foster Says:

      Here’s another article on Iron Dome development:

      http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=77441&pageid=37&pagename=Page+One

      The system isn’t perfect, of course…it won’t work if the launch site and the target are too close together, as is apparently the case with Palestinian rockets targeted at Sderot. And the interceptor missile, while they were designed to be cheaper than typical AA missiles, are still pretty expensive….I’ve seen estimates from $40,000 to $90,000 each…while they Palestinian rockets that they intercept are much cheaper.

      Here’s an interesting story:

      “Back in mid-June, during the great Paris weapons show, the Rafael pavilion was absolutely the busiest around, and everybody wanted to look at the new, exciting, Iron Dome system, the greatest achievement in rocket defense ever. But by the end of the show, Rafael hadn’t made a single sale. The Arrow sold well, other systems did great – Iron Dome wasn’t moving. So they contacted their big clients, the serious ones, and asked what gives. And those clients told them no one except Israel has any use for these things. Because in any normal, sane country, if some hooligans were to start targeting civilians with rockets – the army would go and kill them.”

      http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/the-morally-reprehensible-iron-dome-hamass-best-friend/2012/11/19/

      (Actually, it sounds like India is interesting in acquiring Iron Dome)

    5. Bill Brandt Says:

      And those clients told them no one except Israel has any use for these things. Because in any normal, sane country, if some hooligans were to start targeting civilians with rockets – the army would go and kill them.”

      They have a point David – and amazing that the world press ignores the rocket attacks and only condemns Israel –

      On Iron Dome some of the most enduring – and long lived – systems were developed outside the normal procurement process – the P51 Mustang is another example. From concept to flying prototype in 6 months.

      And instead of another long period of committee study and evaluation the British – with their backs to the wall -just tried stuffing a RR Merlin in and the plane became the icon that it is.

      here’s another weapon from the Israeli wizards
      http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2003/12/61616

    6. Kirk Parker Says:

      Re: “available only to subscribers”

      Copy the title of the article, paste into the Google search box. The Google link to the article will bypass the paywall.

    7. Jose Angel Says:

      What I have read about Iron Dome is that at its beginning stages it has forced palestinians to target areas out of the Iron Dome’s range because it was knoking down hundreds of their rockets, at a rate of about 90% of rockets launched by Hamas and other terrorist groups.

      Israel’s new defense capabilities are game-changers for greater conflicts or threats, Iron Dome neutralizes most rockets in a range between five to sixty or seventy km, but Israel’s already working on a new project called David’s Sling, that will be targeting missiles in the range of 70 to 250 km.

    8. David Foster Says:

      From Amherst to the IDF:

      http://amherststudent.amherst.edu/?q=article/2012/11/28/why-hamas-forced-me-leave-amherst-college

    9. Bill Brandt Says:

      David – sorry I was late in getting back to you – it wasn’t a slight – just oversight – yes it was the WSJ – but as someone mentioned…thanks to Google ;-)

    10. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

      }}} Copy the title of the article, paste into the Google search box. The Google link to the article will bypass the paywall.

      LOL. Thx. Have to remember that one.
      Idiots.

    11. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

      Here’s an IBD piece on it:
      http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/111912-634045-israel-iron-dome-successful-missile-destroyer.htm

    12. David Foster Says:

      IGB…thanks for the IBD link. From the article, a quote from Obama:

      “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space”

      It’s fortunate for the world that the Prime Minister of Britain in the late 1930s did not cut investments in “unproven air defense systems” involving a new technology called radar (by Americans–the Brits called it Radio Direction Finding) and the use of telecommunications networks for centralized battle control.

      The Prime Minister at that time was Neville Chamberlain: appeaser that he was, he still deserves some credit for the improvements to Britain’s defenses that took place during his term of office.

    13. Bill Brandt Says:

      An Iron Dome missile costs $60,000 – compare that to the cost of a Patriot missile

    14. Jose Angel Says:

      but the trick with Iron Dome is that is has to intercep erratic flying cans full of explosive stuff. That´s a bit more difficult than intercepting long range missiles.

    15. Mike K Says:

      “a quote from Obama:

      “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space”

      The only good thing I can say about Obama is that he is a liar. What he tells his lunatic lefty supporters has only a distant relationship to the truth. Israel has the advantage of the well known Jewish intelligence and is capable of developing their own weapons. After Stuxnet, I wouldn’t blame them if they denied us access to new systems. The UAV was originally an Israeli system called “Mastiff.”

    16. Shannon Love Says:

      These systems aren’t just missile destroyer but some can fairly reliably destroy or deflect artillery shells as well. I bet within 20 years on the outside, we will have returned to Civil War era, straight line of site fire because anything lobbed in an arc will be shot down, deflected or fried by energy weapons, missiles interceptors and hypervelocity guns (Probably a grid of all three.)

      We’ve been stuck in the basic modality of over-the-horizon warfare since WWI but I’m pretty sure that era is coming to an end. I don’t expect aircraft to last much longer either.

    17. Shannon Love Says:

      David Foster,

      The Prime Minister at that time was Neville Chamberlain: appeaser that he was, he still deserves some credit for the improvements to Britain’s defenses that took place during his term of office.

      According to Churchill and other sources, Chamberlain wasn’t philosophically an appeaser. He was as quick to fight as Churchill, no one was, but he was blind to the threat of Fascism. Instead, he simply had no choice at Munich because of the degradation of Britian’s military during the Labor governments of the 30s who responded to the Great Depression by slashing military spending even as Germany was spending all it could.

      In 1938, most British fighters were still predominately wood and fabric biplanes with radial engines while all the German planes all metal mono wings, most with inline engines. The Royal Air Force would have been massacred in 1938 and the RAF told Chamberlain as much. France went down hard even though they attempted to rearm and even with nearly 3 years to prepare, the British still almost lost the battle of Britain.

      The story of appeasement at Munich is less about Chamberlain not having a spine and more about the failure of Left leaning governments throughout the free world to make long term military plans and sustain them regardless of short term economic problems. You can’t just whip up a military overnight. US military build up began in 1937 over four years before Pearl Harbor. Much of the technology was developed privately in the early 1930s e.g. 100% octane gas.

      Leftists seem to believe that is some threat materializes, they can just borrow some money, cut a check and have a functioning expanded military overnight. They can’t. Historically military you start a war with is the military you funded at least 5 years ago. With the long lead times of modern high tech weapons and the associated training, it’s probably more like 10.

      The danger of Obama’s neglect of missle defense is that either he or one of his successors will be forced to absorb a nuclear strike of a 1-6 missiles and then retaliate horribly instead of just sniping the missiles out of the air with no loss of life.

    18. Shannon Love Says:

      Okay, I mangled my last comment. Specifically the first line which should read:

      According to Churchill and other sources, Chamberlain wasn’t a philosophically an appeaser. He wasn’t as quick to fight as Churchill, no one was, but he wasn’t blind to the threat of Fascism.

    19. tyouth Says:

      Just by the way, I don’t think that the Battle of Britain was an extremely close battle, except at the outset perhaps. The British had quite a few advantages with radar, being literally a couple of minutes (seconds?) from the fighting while the Germans spent 2/3 or more of their flight time coming and going. Fuel savings, ability to retrieve wounded birds, etc.

      Hitler quit going after RAF airfields (and factories?) and began bombing civilians after (I think it was) a single Brit. bomber dropped a few on Hamburg. Hitler broadcasted to the German people (paraphrasing here) that “revenge would be taken, the Luftwaffe would kill thousands from the air for every German killed that way”. It was a big blunder in the B of B and, in the end, it was the German population that died in the thousands.

    20. Mike K Says:

      ” he simply had no choice at Munich because of the degradation of Britian’s military during the Labor governments of the 30s who responded to the Great Depression by slashing military spending even as Germany was spending all it could.”

      The politician who had the most effect on Britain’s defenses was the Conservative, “Dear Vicar,” Stanley Baldwin. Ramsey MacDonald was a Labour PM but he had many Conservative figures, including Baldwin, in his government. Baldwin took over in 1935 but he had been very influential for years before that. Baldwin and Chamberlain were businessmen and hated to spend on defense. England had emerged from the Depression in much better shape than Roosevelt’s US administration. They sound to me much like present day Libertarians, rather than leftists. Attlee and Greenwood were supportive of Churchill who was an outcast among Conservatives. Labour did have a pacifist streak, especially with MacDonald, but a lot of the damage was done by the Conservatives.

      From the Wiki article on Baldwin:

      Baldwin did not advocate total disarmament but believed that “great armaments lead inevitably to war”.[23] However he came to believe that, as he put it on 9 November 1932: “the time has now come to an end when Great Britain can proceed with unilateral disarmament”.[24] On 10 November 1932 Baldwin said:

      I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through, The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves…If the conscience of the young men should ever come to feel, with regard to this one instrument [bombing] that it is evil and should go, the thing will be done; but if they do not feel like that – well, as I say, the future is in their hands. But when the next war comes, and European civilisation is wiped out, as it will be, and by no force more than that force, then do not let them lay blame on the old men. Let them remember that they, principally, or they alone, are responsible for the terrors that have fallen upon the earth.[24]

      This speech was often used against Baldwin as allegedly demonstrating the futility of rearmament or disarmament, depending on the critic.[25]

    21. Bill Brandt Says:

      Hitler quit going after RAF airfields (and factories?) and began bombing civilians after (I think it was) a single Brit. bomber dropped a few on Hamburg. Hitler broadcasted to the German people (paraphrasing here) that “revenge would be taken, the Luftwaffe would kill thousands from the air for every German killed that way”. It was a big blunder in the B of B and, in the end, it was the German population that died in the thousands.

      @ Tyouth – what I do know about the Battle of Britain was confirmed by the movie Battle of Britain – produced about 1969.

      IOW what I do know as factual the movie reflected. One aspect the movie brought out I have never been able to confirm – the reason for the Luftwaffe’s change in tactics from the RAF airfields to London.

      I believe the reason is factual – the mistaken bombing by a Heinkel squadron – thinking it was in the countryside – over the London docks.

      The weather was bad, and bombers would jettison their bombs rather than try to land with them (as an aside a probable theory of Glenn Miller’s disappearance was having the misfortune of being over the English Channel when a group of Lancasters was jettisoning their own bombs over the water)

      Hitler and Churchill had a tacit understanding that neither would bomb the other’s cities – and when London was bombed it so enraged Churchill that he sent a flight of Lancasters to return the favor to Berlin.

      ..which so enraged Hitler that he had the entire focus of the Luftwaffe change from the airfields to London.

      …which, because of the distance and the short operating radius of the Me109 – gave the 109 about 20-30 minutes over London to protect the bombers.

      …which gave the RAF some breathing room and with the Heinkels without fighter protection made it easier for the Spitfires and Hurricanes to pick off the bombers.

      … which let to an unacceptable attrition rate for the Luftwaffe forcing them to abandon the hope of beating the RAF.

      Anyway, the thing that I have never been able to confirm from the movie was that lost Heinkel squadron was commanded by a Major Brandt .

      I’ll have to admit I do get lost occasionally and it never bothers me – I always get back on course. But my actions have never caused the wholesale change – and outcome – of a world war. ;-)

    22. Shannon Love Says:

      Mike K,

      Labour did have a pacifist streak, especially with MacDonald, but a lot of the damage was done by the Conservatives.

      That’s probably fair in regards to Britain and the US but not France, Norwegian and the rest. Non-Leftists right up against the Germans tended to be more pro military. In the US, the Republicans in the 1930s were isolationist who saw WWI as a needless failure and who wanted a small military just to keep the sea lanes open. Pearl Harbor is the only reason the US entered WWII united at all. His skillful handling of the run up to the war and the war itself are all that redeemed FDR. Had his legacy had to rest on his domestic policies, he would be far less well regarded today.

      I do know that British Labor bounced back and forth about war with Germany largely in sync with Stalin’s attitudes. Prior to the non-aggression pact/alliance between Stalin and Hitler, British Labor was more willing to support armament. After the alliance, they became more resistant even though the shooting war started soon after. Only after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union did they swing solidly behind the war. That reveals how powerful an effect the Communist had on their positions even though the vast majority were not communist.

      We do have to be careful projecting modern categories on the past. E.g. Most contemporary Leftists see the old South as being in some kind of ideological sync with the Nazis but it was the old South Democrats who most strongly supported FDR’s pre-war rearmament plan and were most willing to fight the Nazis and Japanese while almost everyone in the North Republican and Democrats, except for Jewish Democrats, resisted.

      American Communist supported rearmament up until the pact, then resisted it, then supported it again after the invasion of the Soviet union. You can spot people who were secret communist back in the late 1930s by looking for that pattern. Stalin panicked after the invasion and ordered all Communist world wide, even those under deep cover, to argue for fighting Fascism. A lot of people had to jettison their previous cover story stances over night.

      I’ve always wanted to have a peek at Saul Alinsky’s paper from that time.