Israel’s Defense Innovations: From Iron Dome to Arrow 3

PTI, Apr 16, 2024, 10:36 AM IST

When Iran fired over 300 drones and missiles at Israel in a massive five-hour attack, Israel’s advanced air defense systems, heavily supported by U.S. funding and allies, successfully blocked the attack. Since a previous attack by Hamas on October 7, the U.S. plans to increase its military support for Israel by proposing additional billions in funding.

After the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on X, “We intercepted. We thwarted. Together we will win.”

Israel has a comprehensive air defense system capable of intercepting a wide range of threats, from long-range missiles to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and short-range rockets.

Here’s a detailed overview of Israel’s multi-layered air defense system:

Iron Dome or Kippat Barzel ( in Hebrew )

The Iron Dome is a key part of Israel’s air defense, created by Israeli companies Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries. Launched in 2011, it’s built to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells, which are often launched by groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza.

It consists of 3 main Components :

1) Radar Unit : A radar system spots a missile or shell entering Israeli airspace.

2) Control unit : Information about the missile is relayed to a control unit that evaluates the danger and determines a path to intercept it.

3) A Firing Unit : A launcher sends out a missile equipped with radar and a special warhead to hit and neutralize the incoming threat.

The Iron Dome uses radar and analysis to decide if an incoming rocket is a threat. It only launches an interceptor if the rocket could hit a populated area or key infrastructure. Israeli leaders and defense firms claim that the Iron Dome successfully stops more than 90% of threats. However, some defense experts are skeptical about these figures.

The system is built to stop rockets traveling from 4 kilometers to 70 kilometers away ( 2.5 to 43 miles)

Despite Israeli military officials claiming a 90 percent success rate for the Iron Dome, Jean-Loup Samaan, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Singapore’s Middle-East Institute, told that the system only targets rockets threatening civilian areas. He explained, “If a rocket is headed towards an unpopulated part of Israel, the Iron Dome won’t activate. This makes it difficult to determine the accuracy of the 90 percent effectiveness rate.”

Maintaining the Iron Dome is expensive. Jean-Loup Samaan notes that each Tamir interceptor missile used by the system costs about $50,000, which is roughly equivalent to INR 4.1 Crores, . Initially, Israel funded the Iron Dome on its own, but due to the system’s high costs, it has had to seek financial support from its long-time ally, the United States.

Producing a full Iron Dome battery is estimated to cost around $100 million (INR 834 Crores) . The Iron Dome is only one part of Israel’s extensive missile defense system, which also includes layers for low to mid-range, upper-atmospheric, and exo-atmospheric threats.The The system responds within seconds and operates around the clock, 24 hours a day.

● “Upper-atmospheric” refers to the region high above the Earth’s surface, typically starting around 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) above the Earth, where the atmosphere becomes much thinner. This area extends up to about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) above the Earth.

● “Exo-atmospheric” refers to anything beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, starting just above 100 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. This is considered the beginning of outer space. Activities or objects in this region are literally in space, outside the atmospheric layers that surround our planet.

Israel has deployed at least 10 Iron Dome batteries across the country, with each one capable of protecting a 60-square-mile area of populated land. These batteries are mobile and can be relocated based on shifting threats. Each battery is equipped with three to four launchers and each launcher contains up to 20 Tamir interceptors.

David Sling or Magic Wand,

David’s Sling, also called the Magic Wand, is another layer in Israel’s air defense system. It launches an interceptor missiles known as the Stunner, which lacks a warhead, to counter medium to long-range rockets and missiles. Also, designed to intercept enemy planes It can intercept threats at distances of up to 185 miles (approximately 298 kilometers).

The David’s Sling system is equipped with several key components: a vertical missile launcher to deploy interceptors, a control radar to track incoming threats, a battle management station which coordinates defense actions and analyses the threat, and the interceptor missiles themselves, designed to neutralize incoming missiles and rockets mid-air.

Each vertical launcher in the David’s Sling defense system is capable of holding up to 12 missiles.

The Stunner missile, measuring 4.6 meters in length, is designed to intercept targets at heights up to 15 kilometers and distances ranging from 40 to 300 kilometers. It can achieve speeds up to Mach 7.5, which means it travels 7.5 times faster than the speed of sound. This capability allows it to quickly reach and neutralize incoming threats effectively.


The Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems are built to stop missiles that travel outside of Earth’s atmosphere, making them the highest layer of Israel’s air defense.

The Arrow 3, completed in 2017, was first used in combat last year to intercept a missile launched by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen towards Eilat, an Israeli city. Developed and funded together with the United States, the Arrow 3 differs from Arrow 2 as it doesn’t use explosives; instead, it destroys its target through the force of the collision alone.It has a reach of 2,400 kilometers (1,491 miles) and can intercept threats at a height of 100 kilometers and above .

Outside Earth’s atmosphere generally refers to altitudes above 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) from the Earth’s surface, known as the Kármán line. This boundary marks where Earth’s atmosphere ends and outer space begins, allowing missiles in this region to operate in a near-vacuum, free from atmospheric drag.

The Arrow systems, which include Arrow 2 and Arrow 3, use two-stage solid-fueled interceptors to target short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Each system is made up of a launcher, radar, and battle management center. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Arrow 2 is aimed at stopping missiles in the upper atmosphere, while Arrow 3 is capable of neutralizing threats in space.

Together, these systems form the highest level of Israel’s layered air-defense network, designed to safeguard Israel’s nearly 9,000 square miles (about 23,310 square kilometers) of land from missiles, rockets, artillery, and drones.

The Arrow family of missiles, worth multiple billions of dollars, was developed primarily to counter potential attacks from Iran. The newer Arrow 3 is a hypersonic missile, meaning it travels much faster and at higher altitudes compared to the older Arrow 2 model.

The Arrow 3 missile weighs half as much as the Arrow 2 missile.

The Arrow missiles feature a two-stage design with solid propellant booster and sustainer rocket motors. They execute a vertical hot launch from their container using an initial burst of energy, followed by a secondary burn to maintain the missile’s path toward its target at speeds reaching Mach 9, or about 2.5 kilometers per second.

Each Arrow battery typically includes between four and eight vertical launchers. Each launcher is equipped with six tubes that hold missiles ready to be fired.


Girish Linganna
Defence & Aerospace Analyst
Mobile +91 9845099196

( The author Girish Linganna of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at: [email protected] )

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