The IDF does not have enough Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to cover both the Gaza and northern fronts. The system would be further stretched if central Israel came under attack.
In two barrages on June 20 and June 27, Hamas launched up to 100 missile mortar shells from the Gaza Strip against Israel towns and villages. Timely alerts sent civilians to shelters in time to avoid casualties. But it had had become obvious that the south was short of Iron Dome batteries to ward off heavy rocket salvoes, because the bulk were deployed along Israel’s northern border where war tensions are rising. This deficiency would become critical if central Israel came under missile attack. This eventuality comes closer as Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite militias, under Iranian Revolutionary Guards command, become a strong component of the Russian-backed Syrian assault advancing in the Daraa province.
Israel’s generals and other strategists are painfully aware of the inadequacy of protection for North and for the national strategic facilities across the country from the new precision missiles, especially those in the Hizballah arsenal. Such missiles could be launched from Syria, Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.
To address this rising threat, the Israel security cabinet is meeting urgently on Sunday night, July 1, to draw up plans for preparing the northern home front for an outbreak of hostilities. The meeting was later postponed. The ministers will need quite soon to resolve a hot debate taking place in recent weeks among Israel’s military leaders over whether to supplement Israel’s Iron Dome missile interception system with new US laser beam weapons. Israeli projects for developing these systems, partly in conjunction with US partners, were shut down in 2007, when it was decided to focus on the home-made Iron Dome. Then, too, some circles argued that the high cost of deploying the Israeli Iron Dome did not justify the large investment in its development. But after the last Gaza operation in 2014, Iron Dome was held as a national icon and no one talked about its high cost.
However, now the threat has exacerbated. Potentially ranged against Israel are at least 12,000 different kinds of advanced missiles, which pack are far deadlier and more precise punch than the Hamas projectiles of four years ago. And so the argument has revived. It is calculated that it will take at least three to four Iron Domes to intercept one these advanced enemy missiles, a prohibitive outlay that would come on top of the high expense of conducting a full-scale war. This is beyond Israel’s means. The arithmetic is simple: Downing an estimated number of 12,000 enemy missiles would take more than 30,000 Iron Dome missiles, at the astronomical cost of $5 billion. The preponderant rationale under consideration therefore is for Israel to stop paying for additional Iron Domes and instead buy SkyGuards, an anti-missile laser system developed from the US Nautilus, which is readily available or can be quickly assembled.
Fifteen SkyGuard batteries (at $75 million apiece) would come to around $1.125 billion, representing a saving of $3.75 billion compared to the cost of Iron Domes.
The pro-Iron Dome lobby is putting up a strong fight against introducing the laser interceptor to IDF service. Part of this argument is that replacing the Israel product would be detrimental to sales on world markets. Last week, as part of the Iron Dome campaign, reports of a laser beam’s effectiveness against the incendiary kites and balloons flying across the Gaza-Israeli border were hushed up. But as threats escalate on two fronts, the IDF may not have enough time to train field units in anti-missile laser warfare to meet the next conflagration.