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Iron Dome

Recently, I published an article about RAFAEL and the Israeli missiles industry. A trap set by Dow Chemical in its attempt to illegally transfer classified American technology to Israel, led to my close encounter with that industry and eventually to my fleeing Israel and becoming a refugee. The events are described in great detail in The Cross of Bethlehem. Before touching the core issue of this article, I want to remind the key points regarding the Iron Dome.

Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak


Israeli Anti-missiles weapons (I use this term to avoid including anti-tank and air-missiles that are also being developed by RAFAEL and others) are divided into three categories as per their interception range. The Iron Dome system is the newest and still not fully operational, it is intended to intercept short-range rockets (0–70 km). The David's Sling system is designed to intercept medium- and long-range rockets, meaning between 70 km and 250 km, while the Arrow is designed to intercept ballistic missiles from up to 500 km. Each one of them includes several subsystems and thus can be referred to with a variety of names; I’ll skip the details here.

The main threats against which these weapons are being developed are Qassam rockets from Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement in Gaza, Katyusha rockets from Hezbollah, the Shiite Party of God in Southern Lebanon, and Iran's ballistic missiles. The Israeli Ministry of Defense claims that around fifty thousand missiles are overall aimed at the country.

Only the Arrow is fully operational. Due to their nature, the development of these systems takes time and evolves during the process to the extent that many initial specifications are later changed. The Hebrew media reported that the Iron Dome costs soared by 40 percent over the eight months ending in March 2009. These systems never get cheaper, thus some serious control of the Ministry of Defense should be expected; after all they should protect our taxes. Thus the constant support of several Ministers of Defense on these projects is strange considering that:

* The Iron Dome is not a good solution to the Qassam rockets. The following data is public knowledge: The Qassam's speed in the air is 200 meters per second. The distance from the edge of Beit Hanun to the outskirts of Sderot is 1800 meters. A rocket launched from Beit Hanun takes about nine seconds to hit Sderot. The preparations to launch the intercepting missile at their target take up to about 15 seconds (the system locates the target, determines the flight path and calculates the intercept route in that time). The Qassam will hit Sderot a number of seconds before the missile can intercept it even if launched. Other limitations exist and are also public. Yet, the minister keeps pouring money onto the project.

* All the three anti-missiles weapons are very expensive; countering an attack of fifty thousand missiles is economically impossible. An Iron Dome final price is expected to be anywhere between forty to a hundred thousand dollars per unit. A Qassam is prepared for less than a hundred dollars. Even if the Iron Dome has a 100% success rate, it may turn out being a hundred percent hits against 0.1% of the fired missiles or less. A drop in the sea. Each interceptor costs vastly more than the low-tech Qassam rockets from Gaza and the multiple-launch rocket mortars from Southern Lebanon. In more mathematical terms, the price ratio interceptor/missile is high, thus it cannot provide a solution. Yet, the minister keeps pouring money onto the projects.

* Moreover, the firepower in interceptors may be enough to destroy sophisticated ballistic missile heads by the Arrow, but the Iron Dome may just create more polluting debris if hitting unsophisticated missiles containing just explosives or other simple, but dangerous, heads.

There are more similar points showing that this technology is of little relevance. Thus, why the massive efforts of Israel? First, the coin has two sides. If you develop an anti-missiles technology, you automatically gain the missiles technologies. If you can hit a missile in the air, you can hit also a far away and small target on the ground. But that’s not all, concentrating such big budgets (hundreds of millions of dollars for each system) allows easy ways of siphoning budgets to subcontractors and related industries. The core of the anti-missiles industry belongs to the state – RAFAEL – but its profitable margins are in private hands of contractors favored by the Ministry of Defense that get smaller related projects or just provide services to the industry.

At this stage something is clearly very wrong. Israel claims it developed the Iron Dome to protect Sderot. By its technical definition, it would never be able to defend it. Wouldn’t it be smarter from RAFAEL to siphon out funds using – at least – useful technical specifications? Is there something else being hidden by the Ministry of Defense?

Unexpected Twist

Intelligence Online, a Paris-based online magazine covering intelligence and security issues published in English on a bimonthly basis, claims in its issue of March 2010 that Singapore helped finance the Iron Dome system. This explains a lot, since now it is clear the technical specifications were decided by one of the main financers and not for the sake of Sderot denizens. If the Defense Ministry had really wanted to protect the residents, it could have acquired the Vulcan-Phalanx cannon system manufactured by Raytheon. These are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they are successfully used to protect American and NATO forces.

This link between Israel and Singapore is not new. Israel helped to create the marine commando forces of Singapore and since then keeps training them at the Shayetet 13 base in Atlit, south of Haifa. Every year during summer, foreign faces can be seen in the area. Israel’s commando was created during the WWII with the massive help of the Italian marine commando, which is considered to be one of the best in the world; this is yet another example of Israel acquiring technologies from someone and then selling them around. Israel also helped build Singapore’s army, Singapore's purchased IAI’s Barak surface-to-air missiles, Israel upgraded Singapore's fighter planes, Rafael supplied drones for naval missions and Elbit Systems supplied Hermes drones. The cooperation is extensive. What’s going on here?

Singapore’s Strategy

Why does a city-state like Singapore spend so much money in defense? Why the emphasis on tactical elite-units and special weapons? Who threatens it? Actually Malaysia threw out Singapore from the union that followed colonial times. Singapore offers no land gains to the conqueror. Its industry would be destroyed if occupied by Indonesia; the place would look like Gaza Strip. The only thing the conqueror may gain is access to the Singapore Port. Statistics of ports activity ranking are tricky and change rapidly; the main point is that this port is one of the largest in the world and a strategic stop between the Pacific and the Indian oceans. That’s a worthy prize for the conqueror, isn’t it? Actually not.

From time to time the project to make an inland canal through Thailand connecting the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea is proposed; it would shorten significantly the travel time between the two oceans. In 1677 the Thai King Narai the Great asked the French engineer de Lamar to plan a canal connecting Songkhla with Marid (now Myanmar); being impractical with the technology of that time the project was dropped. In 1897 Thailand and the British Empire agreed not to build the Kra Isthmus Canal (also known as the Thai Canal), to protect Singapore, in exchange the British provide help in the conflict between the Thai and the French. This last agreement held along time, but it had become a leverage point in favor of Thailand in its complex relations with Singapore. A century later – in 1997 – the Thai government decided to float the baht, cutting its peg to the USD and caused what is known as the Asian Financial Crisis. One of the results was an ongoing financial help of Singapore to stabilize the Thai baht, in exchange of Thailand forgetting any plans of constructing a canal. Why do I mention this? If Singapore is conquered, Thailand would probably build the canal. Nowadays there are no technical problems. Thus, on there is no gain by conquering Singapore. Singapore has no enemies.

The city state emphasis on tactical units is part of its police state system. Walsingham would be proud on them. Gurkha mercenary forces loyal to their salary-payer inflict terror; special units capable of storming buildings from the sea and inflicting so much fear that nobody would even think of replacing the oppressive regime. These are essential for the police state survival. The only freedom is the freedom to purchase new gadgets. So much like Israel!


What should the people of Sderot do? They are cynically used by Israeli politicians greedy to get more power and more money. They lives are being sacrificed for the sake of Ehud Barak’s bank account. Should they go on paying taxes? Should they go on serving in the IDF? If I answer for them, I’ll probably be accused of some technical fault and be denied my refugee status. Thus I won’t answer for them, but…

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