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A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System 379

Posted by timothy
from the big-badda-boom dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes It isn't as if real analysis of Israel's "Iron Dome" isn't available, but invariably, whenever Israel has a skirmish the media is filled with glowing reports of how well the system works, and we always find out months later that the numbers were exaggerated. John Mecklin at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists looks at the coverage of Iron Dome in the recent exchanges between Israel and Hamas and finds the pattern is repeating itself. However, 'Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all,"' Includes a good explanation of the differences between Iron Dome (a 'rocket defense system') and missile defense systems pushed by the U.S.
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A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System

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  • Subject bait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vivaoporto (1064484) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @01:38PM (#47438549)
    This post (like the one with the Brazuca for the World Cup) is certainly subject bait. It works because it attracts lots of tangentially on topic comments but that doesn't have anything to do with the subject matter of the article.

    So please, don't fall for it. Don't spend the whole comment section arguing about causes and consequences of the conflict, who started it, who deserves is, etc.

    Stay on topic and discuss the technical aspects of the missile system, at least that is what should be discussed here.

    On bizarro world Slashdot, maybe ...
  • Re:Subject bait (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2014 @01:47PM (#47438585)

    "tangentially on topic" is better than your offtopic post.

  • It's hard (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Saturday July 12, 2014 @02:05PM (#47438649) Homepage Journal

    It's difficult to find a technological solution to a combination of relatively minor disagreements as to the exact details of the God of Abraham, plus disagreement over land ownership.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @02:19PM (#47438711) Homepage

    You don't expect a critical appraisal from the vendor, do you? Take his, and everyone else's reporting with some degree of skepticism.

    One notable fact that was tangentially mentioned is that one doesn't see any 'hits' in the media. I would think one would be able to see the effect of the missile intercepting the targets at least some of the time. Given the intense media coverage, one wonders. It's certainly possible that by the time the interceptor hits the target it's too small to visual, but there is one hell of a lot of energy involved. Kinetic energy often creates sparkly bits that can be seen.

    It is also hard to argue that this ISN'T just one more aspect of the public relations game that is endemic to this conflict. Both sides (as is pointed out in TFA) engage in trying to get the other side to look mean and nasty. It's way more complicated than that.

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @02:41PM (#47438825) Homepage

    Why the hell are you still living there?

    It's my home.

  • by Maxwell (13985) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @03:02PM (#47438907) Homepage

    They do that occasionally, and are universally condemned for it. Remember Israel is not allowed to defend itself. They have to just accept 100's or rockets a day lobbed at them and not react. If they do fire back, and go as far as to warn the targets, Hamas gathers their children and brings them to the target creating mini-martyr's and generating huge sympathy, especially from the west.

    They have a standing offer: it Hamas stops the rockets, they stop theirs. Not difficult, unless your Hamas

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @03:02PM (#47438915) Journal
    In the case of SDI the PR might actually be worse than useless (playing mutually-assured-destruction isn't much fun to begin with; but if one or both sides come to believe the hype about a missile defense system things could really go downhill). In the case of 'iron dome', though, it might actually be helpful. Barring fairly substantial increases in rocket construction expertise, or acquisition of something particularly nasty to fill them with, the attacks it is supposed to defeat are only modestly dangerous; but extremely inflammatory.

    Given how lousy the alternatives for appearing to be taking action against the rocket menace are (grovelling through every last hidy-hole in Gaza is militarily doable but a PR debacle and unlikely to turn up more than a few bits and pieces of impoverished machine tools, because low-end rockets just aren't that hard to build. Paying Hezbollah a visit might turn up somewhat more interesting stuff; but that hasn't turned out well in the past) a system that postpones or prevents somebody taking the bait and trying them might be quite helpful.
  • Re:Subject bait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2014 @03:21PM (#47439021)

    Ha ha! Well, _technically_, isn't it the palestinian's home? But I suppose might makes right and all that.. ;-)

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @03:31PM (#47439061) Homepage

    I understand your position, I suppose that you live in a land that is not the ancestrial homeland of your people? I.e. a North American of European decent? I understand that it is probably difficult for you to understand my need to stay. I find some aspects of other cultures difficult to understand as well, as I've mentioned above.

    I have a personal connection to this land. So does somebody else. Hence, war! I'm sure that the Hamas would love nothing more than for me to pack up and leave.

  • by LavouraArcaica (2012798) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @03:52PM (#47439145)

    It's not defense, it's a rampage. Almost a genocide.
    You should remember that Israel (which have one of the best armies in the world) is fighting against a ethnical group without army.
    If anyone else in the world did that, We could call it a massacre, a butchery or even a genocide.

  • by Gravis Zero (934156) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @04:08PM (#47439223)

    seriously, this is just bullshit on par with fox news.

    "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all," Postol said. "It—my guess is maybe [it hits a targeted missile] 5 percent of the time—could be even lower. ... And when you look—what you can do in the daytime—you can see the smoky contrail of each Iron Dome interceptor, and you can see the Iron Domes trying to intercept the artillery rockets side on and from behind. In those geometries, the Iron Dome has no chance, for all practical purposes, of destroying the artillery rocket."

    "for sure," really? how about some actual numbers instead of speculation?

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Blaskowicz (634489) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @04:33PM (#47439311)

    Forget Star Wars the movie anyway. Vader royally fucked up on planet Hoth, seemed to have an overwhelming position but for some reason he decides to go on foot to capture Luke & Leia personnally. But everyone manages to escape and the scary star destroyers in orbit don't manage to destroy or stop any ship. The star destroyers are managed by grossly incompetent captains.. But even with such idiots at the bar, victory would have been certain would all the ships and stuff have burnt the rebel place to the ground with a giant laser/blaster/plasma massacre.

    As for the first movie, it has manually aimed WW2-style air defences ;). "The rebel fighters are too small for our turbolasers", or something like that.
    Star Wars is about resistance/terrorists defeating an evil military industrial empire that suffers from royal fuck ups and ineffective pork barrel weapon projects.

  • by Vapula (14703) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @04:52PM (#47439389)

    Palestinians have an army...

    Not regular army but a terrorism/guerilla kind of army...

    If you count the prices of the missiles launched at Israel, you'd have enough to get food to most of the Palestinians, to repair most of the buildings, to create medic centers, schools, ...

    And they prefer to create martyrs than go to a safe place when Israelian raids come... They want to get the whole world destroying Israel... They want to use US against Israel...

    They prefer to choose war, to kill the Jews that are thought about as worse than dogs by the Muslims. Quran and other clearly say "you may not trust a non-muslim"... If you're Christian, better be warned, we are the next target on the list... well, maybe after agnostics...

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @04:53PM (#47439399) Homepage

    The ancestral land of your people is whoever you were pissing off last. The Jews have roamed the entire fertile crescent and have been told to get the fuck out, or got used by those already there in each and every land. Maybe if you didn't think the world is supposed to cater to you, you could spend less time putting up "Tolerance Museums" and more time actually being tolerated.

    Actually, that is true of every civilization that had roamed the fertile crescent at the beginning of recorded history. As you can see, we're the only ones left!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2014 @05:52PM (#47439709)

    Yeah. And now South Africa has gone from being a nuclear power with a space program to a third world shit hole that's mostly known for it's murder rate. I don't think history is going to be very kind to the Enlightened(TM), either.

    See Desmond Tutu's comments. [youtube.com]

  • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @06:36PM (#47439903)

    We value life, they value heaven.

    According to yourself, you value an personal ancestral connection to the land [slashdot.org]. And you also said you think it's the same for Hamas. So please don't try to twist things into a "good vs. evil" or even "sane vs. insane" narrative. It's not.

  • by MechEMark (1328023) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @08:10PM (#47440311)

    There's really nowhere else to put this, so here goes:
    Thank you dotancohen for all your comments. They are insightful, mature, and, perhaps most importantly, civil.

    As a general on the discussion so far, I find it informative that the most vitriolic comments directed against Israel and Jews were posted anonymously; the posters are well aware that their remarks are defamatory and have no appropriate place in civil discourse.

    Per the preceding discussion, the staggeringly different perspectives on life, the afterlife, martydom, etc. add a dimension to the conflict that is not easily resolved. As the product of a "modern", western civilation and education, I personally find it impossible to subscribe to any sort of notion of the promise of heaven, nor do I have any willingness to sacrifice myself for a religious cause. The asymmetric philosophy that enables suicide bombings, among other atrocities, has had an outsized influence on the conflict and global perception thereof.

    Mark it as flamebait all you want:
    "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us." - Golda Meir

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @09:34PM (#47440537) Homepage

    No, in the case of Iron Dome, that's only PR too. They're shooting $50k+ missiles at $800 rockets. Even after factoring in that Israel's per-capita GDP is 20 times that of Palestine's, that's still a losing proposition, even *if* they had a 100% hit rate (which this article is suggesting it's anything-but) and assuming that you get the launcher, radar, etc for free instead of the actual $55 million per unit. It's in Palestine's best interests that Israel deploy as many of them as possible and try to shoot down every last rocket, because every shekel they spend on Iron Domes and missiles is a shekel they don't spend on jets, tanks, and bombs.

  • by Rei (128717) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @09:59PM (#47440615) Homepage

    Actually, the key thing for them is "cheap". They need to keep costing sub-$1k missiles in the ballpark of these Iron dome systems - the more, the better. They might as well just omit the warheads to save money and increase range. Every $50k shot Israel fires with those systems costs 25 Israelis' annual tax contribution to the IDF. Every $55m system they deploy costs 27.500 Israelis' IDF tax contributions.

    Palestinians are poor, but they're not *that* poor that they can't leverage those kind of lopsided financial ratios.

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snotnose (212196) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @10:04PM (#47440631)
    So a bunch of insane asshats decide to shoot rockets at you, and you're supposed to pull up stakes and move elsewhere? In this example, from Israel to the US?
    I have to admit, I must be missing something. If a bunch of nutjobs in Tijuana decided to shoot rockets into my hometown of San Diego I would certainly hope the government would respond.
  • by Uberbah (647458) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @12:53AM (#47441079)

    Remember Israel is not allowed to defend itself.

    On some other planet where the IDF isn't wiping out 100 Palestinians for every dead Israeli? Where the United States doesn't praise every cluster bomb dropped on Gaza as Israel "defending itself"? Where the Palestinians are on of the world's top military powers and the Zionists are a bunch of unarmed refugees?

    Just another day in this alternate reality built on bald-faced lies you guys have constructed for yourselves....

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 13, 2014 @01:50AM (#47441171)

    So you are saying Israel should be compared to Assad and Hamas?

    Fine, if that's the comparison Israel is looking for.

    Hey guys look! I may be bad, but am not as bad as the other guys over there!

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sun (104778) <shachar@shemesh.biz> on Sunday July 13, 2014 @03:19AM (#47441325) Homepage

    Because:
    A. No place in Israel is truely safe.
    During the second Lebanon war, the most safe place was around where I live (maximal distance from both Gaza and Lebanon). I live 5 Kilometers from the green line. If the Palestinians around my area decide to join in, my house will be in more danger than Dotan's.

    B. Not living in Israel is not really an option.
    Obviously, for some, it is. Long term, however, history showed that Jews don't fare well when not under self government. Thankfully, antisemitism suffered a major blow back after the Nazies lost WWII, and so people who grew up in western countries don't think of it as something real. It is illegitimate, and still fairly rare. That is a good thing. Sadly, it is also very far from non-existing. Jews in many western European countries don't wear external religious signs, and if they do, experience daily harassement. What's more, the current trends are not promising.

    Maintaining Israel is a survival need. The fact that Israel's current strength pushes the danger back quite a bit is proof that the need is real, not vice versa.

    Shachar

  • Re:Subject bait (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nimey (114278) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @09:21AM (#47442277) Homepage Journal

    How much is Israel spending, though, and how much of Iron Dome's cost is borne by American foreign aid?

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