Iron Dome 0

This is from the Times of Israel, by David Shamah:

One of the results of the recent Operation Pillar of Defense operation against Gaza rocket-launching terrorists was the enhanced reputation of Israeli hi-tech, thanks to the effectiveness of the Iron Dome missile defense system. People in Israel – and around the world – looked on in awe as Israeli anti-missile missiles plucked attacking rockets out of the sky, effectively vaporizing them before they could fall, whole or in parts, over populated areas.

Israel, of course, has kept mum over the details of the technology that goes into Iron Dome which defends against low-altitude short-range missiles that are fired from Gaza and Lebanon, as well as its other missile defense systems, including David’s Sling and the Arrow (defense systems against medium- and long-range missile threats, respectively).

But a rapt audience at Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Center this week [last week of December, 2012] got to hear some of the details of how Iron Dome was able to repel some 90 percent of the terrorist rockets fired at Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense that it was activated against, directly from one of the people most responsible for the design, development, execution, and implementation of Iron Dome. And while Natan Barak, CEO of mPrest Systems, could not reveal any of the system’s “top secrets,” he presented some interesting details about Iron Dome, the heart of which was developed by his company, and some hints of what future Iron Dome upgrades will look like. …

mPrest started life as in 1996 as mPrest Technologies, and was supposed to develop solutions for wireless technology. That company was a victim of the dot-com boom, and folded in 2002; at that point Barak, along with his partners Eli Arlazoroff, Reuven Gamzon and Alexander Arlievsky (all of whom are still at the company), reformed it the following year as mPrest Systems, and began developing what would eventually become the command and control brain of Iron Dome. After trying to raise money to advance development, Barak and his partners decided in 2010 they would be better off selling out to Rafael (Israel Military Industries), which owns 50% of mPrest’s shares. …

“The defense establishment was in a bit of a panic after the thousands of rockets that hit the country after the Second Lebanon War in 2006. It was decided that a reliable missile defense system was needed to meet the missile threat, which everyone knew would be repeated in time.” …

A full Iron Dome system consists of mPrest’s Battle Management & Weapon Control (BMC) system – and specifically its C4I Rocket Interception product – where personnel monitor and troubleshoot the automated missile response system; a detection and radar tracking system, built by Israel Aircraft Industries; and, of course, the Tamir interceptor missile itself, built by Rafael (Tamir is a Hebrew acronym for “anti-missile missile”). The system is designed to counter short-range rockets and 155 mm artillery shells with a range of up to 70 kilometers, and can be operated in all weather conditions, any time of day or night. …

Barak couldn’t give too much away about the mechanics of Iron Dome, but its general mode of operation is known: The system detects a launch as a missile makes its way to an area that is within the protection umbrella of an Iron Dome installation. The “incoming” is detected by the highly sophisticated radar system, and the information on the missile’s trajectory, direction, and location are transferred to the command and control system, which then decides what to do. … The command system issues an order to fire a Tamir only if a key target, such as a residential or industrial area, or a sensitive installation, appears to be at risk. Once fired, the Tamir locks in on the incoming rocket, and knocks it out of the sky at the maximum height possible, destroying it with methods that ensure that a minimum of debris will survive to fall to the ground. …

Videos show an array of dozens of rockets being fired at the same time by Hamas terrorists, and on several occasions during Pillar of Defense terrorists fired multiple arrays of these rockets …  in an apparent effort to overwhelm the Iron Dome command and control system.

That’s why … mPrest came up with “hundreds of scenarios in which Iron Dome would be pitted against rockets fired by terrorists.” Those scenarios included a seemingly endless combination of numbers of rockets and arrays used by the terrorists, with the best – from a defensive and economic viewpoint – strategy for Iron Dome to use to ensure that the incoming attack did as little damage as possible. …

The biggest challenge, [Barak] said, was the instant response time needed to shoot down an incoming rocket. “Although we in Tel Aviv were of course concerned during Pillar of Defense when Hamas directed its firepower at us, the truth is that the problem is not here, but in places like Sderot, where within 15 seconds residents have to take cover. It’s an almost impossible task … and as a result we have had to make Iron Dome as flexible as possible, enabling commanders in the field to make adjustments to the response capabilities of the system as quickly as the terrorists change their strategy.”

mPrest’s command and control system, he said, is the only one in the world that is “truly generic, as opposed to other systems that have to be programmed specifically and reprogrammed to meet changing needs. With Iron Dome, we have taken the programming power away from the programmer and put it into the hands of the field crew, where it should be in order to mount a proper defense.” Once set up, though, the system is completely automatic, said Barak. “Even in instances of multiple attacks in an area within an Iron Dome defense perimeter, “the system will target only the rockets that are set to fall in an area that will cause damage or injury, and it will ignore the rest.”

Besides making things easier for the IDF, the flexibility and generic nature of the command and control system will make it easier to sell abroad, which the company has already begun doing. The system is perfect for defense systems, including of course, air, shore, and perimeter monitoring, But it’s also for civilian uses as well; mPrest’s innovations are a major part of the system used by vehicle tracking system Ituran, for example.

The IDF learned a lot about Iron Dome’s capabilities and limitations during Pillar of Defense, and so did mPrest, which is busy integrating those lessons for the next generation of Iron Dome. In fact, the war gave that next generation a major push forward …

“The defense establishment has no doubt that Iron Dome, and the other defense missile systems we are helping out with, including David’s Sling and the Arrow, are going to be crucial to the country’s defenses in the coming years,” said Barak. “We’re ready, although I really hope that our services won’t be needed.”

And this is from the National Post, by Matt Gurney:

Bad news for Hamas: Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence gets better every day.

So said a senior engineer with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Israeli company that developed Iron Dome. Iron Dome is a missile defence system that can intercept short-range missiles, rockets and even artillery shells, at close range and with only seconds of warning. Originally deployed in early 2011, the system came in for widespread global recognition during the week-long conflict between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas last month.

During the fighting, Hamas and other extremist groups bombarded Israel with hundreds of rockets. And Iron Dome blasted most of them out of the sky. …

After a few days of fighting, Israel changed its tactical doctrine: Iron Dome used to fire two interceptors at every rocket, in case the first missed. They quickly realized that was a waste. The system was good enough that if it wasn’t possible on the first shot, the second wouldn’t get it, either. …

Every day of the conflict, military officers gave his company all of the data collected by Iron Dome computers and military radars for the last 24 hours. Rafael engineers would then work through the night, tweaking the software that controls Iron Dome. They’d turn the new software over to the military officers at the next meeting, then start looking over a fresh 24 hour’s worth of data.

It was exhausting for the relative handful of software engineers. But it worked. “The improvements were measurable,” the engineer told me. “It wasn’t dramatic. But we did a little bit better every day. The more rockets they fired at us, the better we got at shooting them down. By the end of the week, Iron Dome was better than it had been at the start. And it was pretty good, then, too.”

Soon … the system’s reliability will be limited only by the mechanical reliability of its various component parts. As long as the equipment works, they expect to hit their target every time. …

Iron Dome has already proven its worth. “It gave our politicians something they don’t usually have,” he said. “Options. We didn’t have to invade Gaza. We made them look powerless just by protecting ourselves. … All the interceptors we fired cost less than one day of ground fighting in Gaza.”

That’s good news for Israel and its neighbours. The whole region is always one lucky shot by Hamas away from a major war — the rockets usually do no damage, but if they did hit something valuable, Israel would be compelled to respond with massive force. Iron Dome makes such tragedies less likely.

Hamas might not like to admit it, but Iron Dome saves Palestinian lives, too.

Note:  Iron Dome was invented and developed in Israel, but the US has invested about $900 million in the system, and now calls for the sharing of technology and co-production.

Cyberwar, and the Jester scoring 8

The battle into which Israel has been provoked by the terrorist organization Hamas is being fought (we say “is” because the truce is nugatory) with computers as well as armament.

From Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/19/12:

Knowledge of computer code is proving to be as important to Israel’s conflict with Hamas as the Iron Dome system intercepting rockets from the Gaza Strip.

In a government building in Jerusalem, technicians in civilian clothes sit in front of a bank of screens, trying to deflect millions of attempted attacks on Israel’s government websites. A map on the wall shows sites where virtual attacks are being carried out around the world, updating every few seconds. Israel and the Palestinian territories stand out with a big red flame. Extra workers are drafted in.

Hamas is running a campaign called OpIsrael.

“From the very beginning, we called on Palestinian software technicians in Gaza and all over the world to use technology to undermine Israeli websites and pages,” Islam Shahwan, the spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of Interior in Gaza, said in an interview from the enclave.

The clicking of keyboards and mice has already become a hallmark of the conflict’s latest flare up that started on Nov. 14 as much as the sound of rocket fire. Aided by supporters abroad and speedy Internet access, the virtual battle is intensifying in tandem with the air attacks as Israelis and Palestinians try to disrupt the flow of information and hack each other’s propaganda machines.

More than 44 million attempts were made to bring down state websites, [Israeli] Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Nov. 18, standing in the government’s cyber war-room.

“Beyond the main military battlefield, there is a secondary arena,” Steinitz said. “Israel has been under unprecedented cyber attack.”

An Israeli air strike on Nov. 19 hit a 15-floor office building in downtown Gaza City used by the television stations of Hamas …  The second floor of the complex that houses an Internet and computer services company was also damaged, cutting connection to subscribers.

The building was targeted because of the presence of senior terrorist members there, Israeli army spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said. One of the militants killed in the assault was Ramez Harb, head of Islamic Jihad’s media operations, who Israel said was responsible for propaganda for the group.

Its armed wing, called Saraya al-Quds Brigades, said on its website on Nov. 17 that its intelligence department “managed to penetrate data for 5,000 cellular phones belonging to senior Israeli army officers and got their personal data.”

Sounds impressive, but what did the terrorists do with their penetration?

The group used the mined information to send warnings via text message, saying “we will make Gaza a graveyard for you and your soldiers and we will turn Tel Aviv in to a massive flame,” according to the website. …

Israeli hackers used their penetration to send a more practical warning:

 The Hamas Interior Ministry said on Nov. 18 by text message that Israeli hackers had penetrated and paralyzed its site, and told Gaza residents to seek necessary information on its Facebook page.

The same day, an Israeli speaking broken Arabic on behalf of the Israeli army cut into the transmissions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad radio stations to warn Gaza residents to “keep away from Hamas infrastructure and don’t help the terrorists.”

Later, from Softpedia, by Eduard Kovacs, 11/22/12:

OpIsrael, a campaign launched by hacktivists from all over the world to show support for Palestine, is beginning to fade away. However, during the operation, some pro-Israel hackers have initiated a counteroffensive.

On Monday, an Israeli hacker known as Yourikan leaked the credit card details of several Palestinian users after allegedly breaching the systems of Palnet, one of Palestine’s largest ISPs.

“Say no to Palestine! Say no to terror!” the hacker said after the attack.

His views are shared by the famous hacker known as The Jester, who has been busy over the past few days disrupting Palestinian websites owned or operated by Hamas

The Jester has taken down a forum belonging to Hamas – almoltaqa.ps – that’s allegedly utilized “for radicalizing fighting-age male Palestinians.” He also disrupted qassam.ps, a site utilized by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade “to spread propaganda and lies.”

Other targets are aqsatv.ps, which the hacker describes as being a “HAMAS run TV channel used for spreading propaganda and images of bodies being dragged through streets [by Hamas – see below]”,  and hamasinfo.net.

All the aforementioned sites are currently down and have been in this state for the past couple of days or so.

Iron Dome 3

190 rockets have been fired at Israeli cities from Gaza over the last 76 hours according to this March 12 report.

Israel has intercepted and destroyed many of them using the defensive weapon named Iron Dome.

It is not an offensive weapon as The Times alleges:

HonestReporting corrects the caption:

[The Times is] wrong. The Iron Dome intercepts Palestinian rockets approaching Israeli population centers like Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva, etc.

Moreover, the Times can’t blame this on the European Press Agency’s original caption. The EPA got it right.

It is true that the rocket attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike against the kidnapper of Gilad Shalit.

This is the Telegraph’s report of the successful hit:

The commander of the Palestinian militant group behind the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was killed in an airstrike in Gaza on Friday. Zuhair al-Qaissi, the commander of the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a Hamas-aligned militant group, was targeted in a midday strike as his car rolled through Gaza City. His son-in-law and another aide also died in the attack while Israel’s military said it killed two more militants in a separate operation.

Then came the massive rocket attack from Gaza.

Rick Moran writes at Front Page:

Israel needed Iron Dome to perform above expectations the past few days because the PRC and its Islamic Jihad allies felt it necessary to respond to the pinpoint strike that took out al-Qassi. That strike reveals a slight change in Israeli defense doctrine, according to YNet News. While Israel has always reserved the right to take preemptive action against the terrorists, this sort of targeted assassination is the result of the terrorist attack last August that killed eight Israelis. the Israelis apparently had an opportunity to kill al-Qassi at that time, but decided against it because they knew there would be a retaliatory rocket strike by the terrorists on civilians. Once Israel’s intelligence services got wind of the plot, it was decided to take out al-Qassi despite the almost certain retaliation with rockets on Israeli civilian centers.

He provides this information about Iron Dome:

Iron Dome has an unconventional history. It took only three years from design to deployment — a rarity among complex weapons systems. The tracking system was developed by Elta, an Israeli defense company while the computer software was created by the Israeli firm Prest Systems. The interceptor rocket was built by Rafael.

It is a marvel of technology and can actually determine if a rocket is a threat to a population center, or whether it will land harmlessly in an open field. CNN describes the system:

“First deployed in April 2011, the Iron Dome system targets incoming rockets it identifies as possible threats to city centers and fires an interceptor missile to destroy them in mid-air. Each battery is equipped with an interception management center to calculate the expected location of impact, and to prioritize targets according to pre-defined targets. The battery also has firing-control radar used to identify targets, and a portable missile launcher.”

This was the first serious battlefield test of Iron Dome and it passed with flying colors. The Jerusalem Post reports that Iron Dome intercepted a total of 27 rockets for a 90% success rate. It is currently deployed around three of the larger cities in the south: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba. The system is entirely mobile and it is expected that once all batteries are deployed, Israel will potentially be able to intercept any missile fired from Gaza. …

The most common rocket in the terrorists’ arsenal is the Qassam – a small, inaccurate projectile whose major benefit appears to be its easy portability. There are several variants of the weapon and its range is limited to between 5 and 15 miles. Hamas also has a Russian-designed Grad rocket system that is truck mounted, which it purchased from Iran. Iron Dome can intercept all of these rockets.

A fourth Iron Dome battery is expected to be added later this year with 5 additional batteries to be manufactured by 2013. An Israeli defense official [said] it would take 13 batteries to cover the border with Gaza. …

The response to the rocket barrage from the terrorists by the Israeli air force has received the usual blanket coverage in the media, highlighting every Palestinian civilian casualty while downplaying — or not even mentioning — the rain of rockets that is constantly hurled at the Jewish state. Not reported in the media were the 45 separate rocket attacks by the terrorists just since January 1 of this year. That number does not include the attacks carried out over the last three days.

With the fully tested and functional Iron Dome rocket defense system, the threat by terrorists to harm civilians will fade.