MISSILE DEFENSE15 Things You Don’t Know About Israel’s Air Defense Systems

By John Jeffay

Published 23 April 2024

Israel has sustained attacks from enemies throughout its history and has invested heavily in high tech defense technologies that are the envy of the world’s military.

Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel in the early hours of April 14, with a barrage of more than 300 missiles and drones designed to inflict maximum damage. 

Virtually all its projectiles were, however, intercepted in a coordinated operation by Israel with the United States, European allies and some Arab nations. It has been hailed as “a greater miracle” than the Six- Day War. 

Israel has sustained attacks from enemies on all sides throughout its nearly 76-year history and has invested heavily in high-tech air defense systems that have become the envy of the world’s military.

Here are 15 fascinating facts about these systems.

1. Three-layer defense 
Israel’s air defense system has three layers, each designed to tackle threats from different distances. 

The Iron Dome, introduced in 2011, intercepts short-range rockets and drones (4-70km / 2.5-43 miles) and is largely used to tackle unguided rockets launched from Gaza and Lebanon. 

David’s Sling, operational since 2017, directly targets large-caliber rockets and short-range ballistic missiles from a range of 70-300km / 43-186 miles. 

Arrow-2, in use since 2017, targets long-range ballistic missiles (300 – 500 km / 186 – 310 miles) and Arrow-3 targets intercontinental ballistic missiles, the big daddy of all missiles, which fly above the Earth’s atmosphere and are designed primarily to deliver nuclear weapons.

2. Firing near the rocket
The Iron Dome uses radar to detect and track rockets and determine if they’re likely to strike populated areas. If so, it fires an interceptor missile that explodes near the rocket – without actually striking it – and knocks it out of the sky. 

The Iron Dome was designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, with US support, in just two and a half years after the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah and is credited with saving countless lives.

3. The crazy Brigadier-General
Brig. Gen. Daniel Gold won the Israel Defense Prize in 2012 for spearheading the Iron Dome project, which has won global acclaim.

People thought he was “absolutely crazy” to push forward the development process, he says. “It was like running 15 serious startup companies at the same time, all of which have to work in harmony with one another and be successful in record time.”

4. David and Goliath
David’s Sling, originally known as Magic Wand, is named after the weapon used by the biblical shepherd to slay the giant Goliath. It was jointly developed and manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in Israel and Raytheon in the US. (Cont.)