The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The Dawning Age of Missile Defense

One likely result of the Gaza War: a boom in missile defense that will probably make a lot of money for some Israeli and American companies. Israel’s impressive Iron Dome system is really shining:

By late Friday, the system had intercepted a total of 184 rockets in recent days, 99 of them on Friday alone, while 330 other rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel.

That would mean a 36% success rate, if every incoming missile were targeted. But the Israeli military has deployed the system to protect populated areas, not to take down every rocket that was launched toward Israel, said Doug Richardson, editor of IHS Jane’s Missiles and Rockets.

Mr. Richardson estimated that Iron Dome historically hit its mark in about eight out of 10 engagements against missiles launched from Gaza.

“They’ve always taken the approach that if an incoming threat is going to land in a farm or a field, you’re going to ignore it,” he said. “Most engagements seem to be up around the 80% mark.”

Clearly missile defense has come a very long way since Patriots sought Scuds in the first Gulf War, and although it’s likely that the accomplishments of this system are being exaggerated a bit in the heat of combat, it’s clear that Israel has developed some serious capability in this field.

Given that Moore’s Law and the expanding capabilities of software are going to be putting new and more powerful tools in the hands of missile defense companies as time goes on, this is an important growth field that no serious country can ignore.

Americans are likely to demand that their own government do everything possible to develop progressively better missile shields.

One suspects that the Indians are consulting with the Israelis on how to block Pakistani missiles. The Japanese and South Koreans will also be paying close attention. Israel spends a lot of money on defense and necessarily so given its situation, but Jerusalem knows how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Israel’s prowess against repeated attacks have created a global market for Israeli weapons and generated enormous respect for Israeli technological ability. Those markets and eager customers in turn provide Israeli researchers and industry with the funds to finance additional development, helping to keep Israel on the technological cutting edge.

Palestinian attacks on Israel do less to hurt Israelis than to increase worldwide demand for Israeli weapons and defense systems; that has been true for decades and it is still true today.

Published on November 18, 2012 12:00 pm