Success of Iron Dome suggests "push-button wars" are here to stay

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  02/19/2013  12:00:00 AM EST
Rate this Article: (5.0 Stars | 2 Votes)
Tags:   iamd | missile defence | rubin

Dr Uzi Rubin is a retired Israel Ministry of Defence official and a former Brigadier General in the Israeli Air Force. He was previously the Director of the Israel Missile Defence Organisation (IMDO), which is like the American MDA, and was in charge of all its missile defence programmes, overseeing the development of Israel's Arrow anti-missile defence system. Dr Rubin established IMDO in 1991 and led the organisation until 1999 when he was transferred to another position in the Ministry of Defence. He is a technical engineer by background.

During a recent interview, Dr Rubin discussed the use of the Iron Dome missile defence system during the Operation Pillar of Defence in the Hamas-governed Gaza strip and what its successful deployment means for Israel as well as exploring the use of missile defences in general.

“I think it encouraged the supporters of missile defence and the establishment to continue expanding Israel’s missile defence coverage,” said Dr Rubin. “Right now we only had five batteries and if there were any doubts or hesitations about whether to increase the number of batteries and providing more weapons and missiles, I think those hesitations have now disappeared.

“I think in terms of lessons learned there are several; first of all it was a push-button war – weapons were fired by operators while the force of manoeuvre remained on the side-lines, there was no ground movement. Second, we found that our missile defences worked and third we found that our missiles defences were affordable. It means that expenditure on missile defence, in terms of defence budgets, was negligible.”

Will further Iron Dome batteries be acquired? Will they be necessary in the Middle East’s evolving threat landscape?

“No doubt more missile defence systems will be acquired, the question is: How many? You hear all kinds of numbers in the press but our Director General has been quoted [in an Israeli newspaper] as saying we should increase from five to thirteen batteries … which I think is a fair number, you can cover most of Israel with that.

“For Operation Pillar of Defence, although it was a very short conflict I think the implications of it mean it provides a watershed moment. It reminded some observers of the idea that short wars assure the course of the next war, like the Spanish Civil War, which revealed how the next war would come about.

“Iron Dome is an answer to a trend, it is not creating the trend,” Dr Rubin said in relation to a question about the evolution of warfare in the region.

“Iron Dome represents warfare in transit from mobile warfare, which was established in World War II and was fought again and again in the wars in the Middle East such as the Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War and the first Gulf War in 1991, to static warfare.

“We are now seeing the rise of static warfare, which is going to rely on firepower rather than manoeuvre. I see this trend everywhere; basically Iran is building itself up for a firepower war and so are our neighbours too, the Syrians. Before the insurgency and unrest started there, the Syrian Army was transiting to firepower warfare, which you can see with the number of rockets and missiles that they acquired. Of course I don’t even have to mention Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are all fully based on firepower. The region has transiting from mobile warfare to firepower warfare and so missile defence has become a natural part of it, just like air defence was for mobile warfare.

Talking about the future of missile defence and new technologies that could again prove game-changers in the way conflicts arises and wars fought, Dr Rubin discussed the use of a previously maligned technology, notorious for its rocky development.

“Eventually we’ll see the introduction of exotic technologies – the first round of directed energy weapon development was not too successful and it petered out, but a new wave of DEW are coming to the fore and these may be more successful. The jury’s still out but if they break through and reduce the cost of equipping the lasers by at least one order of magnitude, that will be the next step in missile defence.”

Andrew Elwell Contributor:   Andrew Elwell

comments powered by Disqus

Advertise With Us

Join Defence IQ