Modeling short-range ballistic missile defense and Israel's Iron Dome system
Armstrong, Michael J.
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This paper develops a model of short-range ballistic missile defense and uses it to study the performance of Israel’s Iron Dome system. The deterministic base model allows for inaccurate missiles, unsuccessful interceptions, and civil defense. Model enhancements consider the trade-offs in attacking the interception system, the difficulties faced by militants in assembling large salvos, and the effects of imperfect missile classification by the defender. A stochastic model is also developed. Analysis shows that system performance can be highly sensitive to the missile salvo size, and that systems with higher interception rates are more “fragile” when overloaded. The model is calibrated using publically available data about Iron Dome’s use during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. If the systems performed as claimed, they saved Israel an estimated 1778 casualties and $80 million in property damage, and thereby made preemptive strikes on Gaza about 8 times less valuable to Israel. Gaza militants could have inflicted far more damage by grouping their rockets into large salvos, but this may have been difficult given Israel’s suppression efforts. Counter-battery fire by the militants is unlikely to be worthwhile unless they can obtain much more accurate missiles.