Thanks to the decision of one man, Israel was able to give its population an excellent, if not hermetic protection, from the rockets launched in recent days from Gaza.
The decision put an end to the dispute between those who thought that an interceptor would do the job and others who believed a laser beam system would do it better.
This debate was fierce and included allegations by both sides. It ended when former defence minister Amir Peretz, a man without any special military background, gave the green light for the development of the Iron Dome.
It was a logical decision. While a laser beam-based system looks, even today, a far-off dream, Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) managed to field a system in 30 months – a record time by any standard.
Top military commanders and ministry of defence officials opposed the investment in developing Iron Dome. The opponents’ objections were based on a claim that the system would not work and that it will cost too much.
Development of the Iron Dome began in 2005. Parallel to the development, the supporters of the laser-based systems continued with their efforts.
They claimed that Nautilus, an American-Israeli programme that began almost 10 years ago, should be resumed. They claimed, without any basis, that the huge prototype of a chemical laser generator that was tested in a New Mexico range can become an operational system in a “short time”.
Those claims looked without any basis when they were made, and now look irresponsible, to put it mildly.
This was a classic fight between supporters of a system that may work in the future, and advocates of one that is based on technology that has just been brought to higher peaks of performance.
The decision proved justified in recent days. The trajectories of the Iron Dome Tamir interceptors closing in on the incoming rockets and destroying them became a feature of this confrontation.
More than $500 million has been invested to date in the development, production lines, and procurement of five operational Iron Dome batteries.
The estimated price of each battery is $60 million and the cost of each Tamir interceptor missile is about $55,000.
So the laser-beam based anti-rocket systems may become a reality in the future. The system that saved many lives in Israel in recent days is based on more ”traditional” technologies that have been stretched to very surprising capabilities.