Israel’s Upgraded Iron Dome Is a Match for the Russian Iskander
High on the agenda of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coming visit to Baku is a pitch to convince Azerbaijan President Ilham Alyev that Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile systems are capable of intercepting Russia’s 9K720 Iskander (NATO-named SS-26 Stone) mobile short-range ballistic missile systems.
Negotiations between Rafael, the system’s Israeli designers and manufacturers, and Azerbaijani defense officials over several months were close to finalization in October. On the table are at least five Iron Dome batteries and several hundred missiles under a contract worth app. $400 million.
Azerbaijan needs to strengthen its defenses against Iran and Armenia, the latter over the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh. Baku also lays claim to territorial waters in a part of the Caspian Sea.
But those negotiations slowed after September, when Russia started supplying Iskander missiles to Armenia, which immediately paraded the impressive new hardware on the streets of Yerevan.
Designed to penetrate enemy missile defense systems and strike enemy targets, The Russian Iskander has two solid-propellant, single-stage guided missiles with a range of 400-480 km. Each is controlled throughout its flight path, fitted with a non-separable warhead and can be independently targeted within seconds.
The Iskander cruises at hypersonic speed of Mach 6-7 at a height of 50km, weighs 4,615 kg and carries a 710-800 kg warhead.
The platform’s mobility makes it hard for targeting to prevent a launch.
Moscow has gone to great lengths to disrupt Israel’s Iron Dome sale to Azerbaijan, first by arming its opponent Armenia with Iskanders and next by a campaign waged by Russian armaments industry circles to demonstrate that the Israel anti-missile system is no match for this advanced Russian missile.
Israel held back from refuting this claim in consideration of the delicate relations ongoing between Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin, and the IDF and Russian forces in Syria. At the same time, the prime minister’s plan to bring missile experts to Baku to demonstrate that the Iron Dome is a fully effective answer for the Russian Iskanders, was indicated in messages the Americans posted this week to Jerusalem and Baku.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that, since their outstanding performance in beating the Hamas rocket blitz two years ago, the Domes have been substantially upgraded with novel devices and fully equipped to take on bigger and longer-range missiles.
A successful Israeli counter-measure for the Russian Iskander would be a sensational event with strong strategic overtones, especially since it has been secretly supplied to the Syrian army.
The Israeli prime minister also plans to seal a contract for command, control, communications, and computers (C4) and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies that President Aliyev is keen on acquiring. Azerbaijan’s arsenal is already packed with Israeli military hardware, including drones and patrol vessels.