Israeli success in downing Hamas rockets draws interest
WASHINGTON — The success cited by Israel for its Iron Dome anti-missile system in its confrontation with Hamas has re-energized U.S. missile defense advocates and generated new interest in the global arms bazaar from nations like South Korea that face a short-range rocket threats from hostile neighbors.
But even ardent supporters of a continent-size missile shield to guard the United States and other NATO members acknowledge the limitations of Iron Dome, which is a tactical system designed to shoot down unsophisticated rockets — basically flying pipe bombs — with a range of less than 50 miles.
Some U.S. technical experts also say they want hard evidence before judging whether Iron Dome knocked out as many rockets as Israel has claimed. Iron Dome’s most salient feature, according to U.S. experts now examining after-action reports from Gaza, may well be its software: The system rapidly discriminates between incoming rockets that are hurtling toward a populated area and others not worth expending a far costlier Iron Dome interceptor to knock down.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas focused global attention on missile defenses, and came as the United States and its Arab allies have undertaken a costly effort to knit together a regional shield in the Persian Gulf to protect cities, oil refineries, pipelines and military bases from a potential Iranian attack.
“This will ratify the common-sense notion that these systems can play a role in defending you,” said Eric S. Edelman, a former undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration. “It will be especially relevant as we move into an era in which there will be more countries with small inventories of rockets and missiles — and more countries that will want to defend against them in a reasonable way.”