So Iron Dome, the U.S-sponsored Israeli anti-rocket system (which shoots with relatively cheap guided missiles to intercept unguided ones), appears to be working. The reports about its effectiveness suggest a very high rate of intercepts (possibly by firing more than one interceptor rocket per incoming one), but even more so they confirm that the system is selective:
It predicts the point of impact and compares it with a map of protection-worthy areas. Uninhabited areas (even large open spaces within settlements) are not defended. This is an important characteristic for a hard kill defence against unguided munitions, quite close to hard kill systems for tanks which don't engage RPG warheads which are going to miss anyway.*
This is of great relevance in those famous cost comparisons between the offensive and the hard kill defensive munition, of course. Too bad; the entire approach becomes invalidated once it faces guided or trajectory-correcting munitions or even only munitions suspected to enter a terminal trajectory correction (or guided) phase a few seconds prior to impact.
|Iron Dome missile launcher, |
(c) supposedly by NatanFlayer
Reaction lags are always a problem in systems involving human decision-making
So in the end, the semi-mobile Iron Dome system (it would be kind of static in a mobile warfare context, for its dislocation is restricted to an area which might be overrun by a day's manoeuvring - there's no need to adapt to unexpected landscapes) doesn't really provide a baptism of fire for counter rocket area defences at all, it's merely relevant to a specific niche, and only so in very low intensity. I suppose the Israelis would never deploy enough Iron Dome firing units to cope with a Soviet 1980's style division's MRL salvo**, for example (or with an Arab army 1970's Soviets wannabe style MRL salvo).
The practice of marking areas for something isn't unknown in mobile warfare or in what passes as such nowadays; the U.S. Army had lots of no-fire zones during its 2003 Iraq invasion. The problem with such things is that they depend on thorough updates in short intervals, or else the effort will turn very ugly in face of an opposition which actually does mobile warfare, too. Blue Force Tracker systems are in theory up to this challenge, but they contribute to the excessive radio traffic addiction of modern Western-style ground forces and this addiction creates a multitude of potentially disastrous problems against capable opposition as well.
In the end, small wars reports remind me more of what we don't know about wars between great powers for lack of such wars (=good thing in itself!), than they enlighten us (or at least me) about the current state of affairs in general.
*: I think I wrote about this selective fires thing sometime, somewhere before, but I'm too lazy to look it up.
**: In case you wonder why I took a now-defunct example: It's not about re-fighting WW3, but about using an example known to be a realistic threat when people are serious about preparing for warfare between great powers. We might go back to such seriousness, after all. I'm fine with it if we never do, of course. That's kind of the point of this blog..