Home Tech How Israel defends itself from Iran’s drone attack

How Israel defends itself from Iran’s drone attack

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How Israel defends itself from Iran's drone attack

On Saturday, Iran launched more than 200 drones and cruise missiles at Israel. As the drones traverse the Middle East en route to their target, Israel has invoked a series of defense systems to prevent their advance. None will be more important than the Iron Dome.

The Iron Dome, in operation for more than a decade, comprises at least 10 missile defense batteries strategically distributed throughout the country. When the radar detects incoming objects, it sends that information to a command and control center, which will track the threat to assess whether it is a false alarm and where it could hit if it is not. The system then fires interceptor missiles at incoming rockets that appear most likely to hit an inhabited area.

“That whole process was designed for defense against low-flying, fast-moving missiles,” says Iain Boyd, director of the Center for National Security Initiatives at the University of Colorado. Which also makes it extremely well prepared for a drone attack. “A drone will probably fly slower than these rockets,” Boyd says, “so in some ways it’s an easier threat to address.”

Things get more complicated if the drones fly so low that radar can’t detect them. However, the biggest challenge may be quantity. Israel has hundreds of interceptor missiles at its disposal, but it is still possible that Iron Dome will be overtaken, as happened on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel with a barrage of thousands of missiles.

US officials have said that Iran has so far launched a total of 150 missiles at Israel. The Iron Dome has already been active to divert them, although a 10-year-old boy was reportedly injured by shrapnel from an interceptor missile.

While Iron Dome is Israel’s last and possibly best line of defense, it is not the only factor here. The unmanned aerial vehicles in question are likely Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, which have played an important role. Prominent role in Russia’s war against Ukraine. These so-called suicide drones (they have a built-in warhead and are designed to crash into targets) are relatively cheap and travel at a top speed of just over 100 mph. That means the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have traveled for several hours before reaching their intended destination, leaving ample opportunities to intercept them.

“Because there are so many warning signs ahead of UAS, there will presumably be a lot of manned fixed-wing aircraft that will be watching these things, tracking these things, and presumably trying to attack them,” Tom says. Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy think tank.

Some of that work has fallen to the US military, which has confirmed that it has shot down an unspecified number of Iranian drones and will continue to do so. The UK has said it will provide support to US aircraft that have been diverted from their current missions and will also intercept unmanned aerial vehicles.

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