Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iron Dome, the U.S.-funded Israeli missile defense system, performed “remarkably well” in defending Israel against Hamas rockets.
Panetta said yesterday the system intercepted about 400 rockets fired at Israel, or about 85 percent of those targeted by its radar and battle-management system as heading toward populated areas.
A cease-fire last week halted eight days of bloodshed between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist group by the U.S., Israel and the European Union. Panetta commented during a Pentagon news conference with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said this week that he is retiring from politics. Barak presented Panetta with a glass-enclosed model of an Iron Dome interceptor.
Iron Dome, made in Israel by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., is designed to intercept and destroy rockets capable of flying as far as 70 kilometers (44 miles). Israel has fielded its first five batteries of launchers and interceptors costing as much as $90,000 apiece, according to the nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Research Service.
Barak praised the United States for an investment of about $275 million that allowed Israel’s military to more quickly deploy the initial batteries in southern Israel.
Asked whether the Pentagon might buy the Israeli-made Iron Dome to fulfill the U.S. Army’s request for a missile-defense system, Panetta said any choice must be “cost-effective.” The Pentagon and Army need to look at all options, he said.
Barak said Israel’s territory this month absorbed more than 1,500 Hamas-fired missiles launched into an area about one-tenth of Israel with about 20 percent of the population.
Iron Dome was “extremely successful against salvos,” sparing the military from wasting many interceptors on missiles not headed toward populated areas, Barak said.