The Israeli-America-developed Iron Dome missile defense system has gained fame for its unprecedented ability to intercept short-range rockets of the type fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, which other systems were incapable of protecting against.
Now, the US Army has successfully demonstrated how the system can also be used to down unmanned drones – adding further value to the revolutionary system, which was largely funded by United States military aid.
The test – jointly carried out by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the US's Raytheon defense contractor – represented the first live simulation of the Iron Dome on foreign soil, and was carried out earlier this week. Until now, the Iron Dome has only been used in southern and northern Israel to protect against rocket attacks from Gaza and southern Lebanon respectively, but interest has been expressed by numerous potential buyers throughout the world – though it has yet to be sold to any foreign militaries.
According to a statement from Rafael Systems, the Iron Dome's Tamir missiles – usually used to intercept incoming missiles – were used to target and take down a drone.
Lt.-Col. Michael Fitzgerald explained that the US Army was currently testing a number of different air defense systems competing for a potentially lucrative tender for the American military.
The Iron Dome has gained international acclaim and admiration among defense experts for its incredible success rate, successfully intercepting nearly 90% of all rockets fired at civilian areas. Previously accepted wisdom among military experts had long considered such high "kill ratios" an impossibility for missile defense systems.
Iron Dome has an added feature which identifies which rockets are heading for population centers and which will strike open areas, enabling it to spare the highly-expensive missiles for when they are genuinely needed.
Since first being deployed the IDF says the Iron Dome has shot down more than 700 rockets.
While that has largely neutralized the rocket threat – at least from short-range rockets – terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have repeatedly attempted to use drones to collect intelligence and occasionally even attempt attacks on Israeli targets.
Adding drones to the list of targets the Iron Dome can defend against will thus significantly boost Israel's defense capabilities in that field as well.