A close look at Israel’s complex air defense system amid the attack from Iran

April 14, 2024
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An attack by Iranian drones and ballistic missiles Saturday posed the latest challenge to Israel’s air defense system, which already has been working overtime to cope with incoming rocket, drone and missile attacks throughout the six-month war against Hamas.

Over 200 missiles and drones were fired from Iran towards Israel, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari reported, saying that the vast majority were intercepted. Hagari, though, indicated an unknown number of missiles fell in Israeli territory. He said at least one child was wounded in the attack.

Iran missile and drone attack on Israel
Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, Sunday, April 14, 2024. Iran launched its first direct military attack against Israel on Saturday. The Israeli military says Iran fired more than 100 bomb-carrying drones toward Israel. Hours later, Iran announced it had also launched much more destructive ballistic missiles.

Tomer Neuberg / AP


Here’s a closer look at Israel’s multilayered air-defense system:

The Arrow: This system developed with the U.S. is designed to intercept long-range missiles, including the types of ballistic missiles Iran said it launched on Saturday. The Arrow, which operates outside the atmosphere, has been used in the current war to intercept long-range missiles launched by Houthi militants in Yemen.

David’s Sling: Also developed with the U.S., the David’s Sling is meant to intercept medium-range missiles, such as those possessed by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Patriot: This American-made system is the oldest member of Israel’s missile-defense system – used during the First Gulf War in 1991 to intercept Scud missiles fired by Iraq’s leader at the time, Saddam Hussein. The Patriot is now used to shoot down aircraft, including drones.

Iron Dome: This system, developed by Israel with U.S. backing, specializes in shooting down short-range rockets. It has intercepted thousands of rockets since it was activated early last decade – including thousands of interceptions during the current war against Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel says it has a success rate of over 90%.

Iron Beam: Israel is developing a new system to intercept incoming threats with laser technology. Israel has said this system will be a game changer because it is much cheaper to operate than existing systems. However, it is not yet operational.

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