The Jerusalem Post (Link) - Yaakov Katz (March 24, 2011)
As missile fire from the Gaza Strip escalated on Thursday, the IDF is preparing for the possible deployment of the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system along Israel’s border with Gaza.
In late February, the Israeli Air Force held a test of the counter-rocket defense system, Iron Dome, which was supposed to serve as the final stage before declaring the system operational.
While a month has passed since then, the system is nowhere to be found despite the recent escalation and daily rocket and missile attacks against Israeli towns and cities in the South.
Officially, the IAF claims that even though the system successfully passed the final round of tests in February, it is still not ready for deployment. On the other hand, some defense officials have accused the IAF of getting cold feet and of refusing to deploy the system due to a fear that it might not work.
Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 km and each battery consists of a multimission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors named Tamir.
The main problem is that the Defense Ministry has so far only purchased and received two Iron Dome batteries, each of which can protect an urban area of approximately 100 square kilometers.
Since the escalation in hostilities in the South, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh has held a number of discussions with IAF and Operations Directorate representatives in an effort to speed up the deployment and begin to use the system to protect Israeli civilians.
On Thursday, the IDF decided to speed up the deployment of the system, possibly as early as next Sunday or Monday.
On the other hand, some defense officials warned Thursday of the ramifications of deploying the system without the ability to protect all of the cities and towns that are under missile fire. As a result, until there are more systems, the IDF will likely use the existing Iron Dome batteries to protect IAF bases in the South to retain the air force’s operational freedom in the event of a larger-scale conflict.
“If the system is, for example, deployed outside of Sderot than the terror groups will figure it out and begin firing at other cities that are not protected,” one defense official said. “This could potentially cause more harm than good.” †