Going Postol

Never let the data get in the way of a good story.  Especially when there’s tax money just itchin’ to be spent and military contractors whining to be fed.

The [United States] Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approved a defense spending bill on Tuesday that would provide $621.6 million for Israeli missile defense, including $351 million for the Iron Dome system that intercepts short-range rockets and mortars. In the latest hostilities between Israel and Hamas, Iron Dome has been successful in shooting down rockets and preventing Israeli deaths.
“It works,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee.

Um … maybe not so much. Or at least so says the newly-controversial Dr. Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at MIT.  In fact, in an inpromptu study that has enraged the usual suspects and their running dog lackeys, Professor Postol asserts that claims of Iron Dome’s success are wrong on both counts:

  • The last time large-scale rocket attacks occurred between Hamas and Israel was in November 2012.  During the November 2012 conflict a large number of Iron Dome interceptor contrails in the sky [were photographed].  These contrails revealed that the Iron Dome interceptor rate was very low —perhaps as low as 5 percent or below.  Collection of the data for July 2014 is still in progress. However, data so far collected indicates that the performance of Iron Dome has not improved.
  • The only meaningful definition of a successful rocket intercept is the destruction of the rocket warhead … [which] is considerably more [difficult] than doing damage to other parts of the rocket —or successfully damaging an aircraft, causing the failure of its mission.  In this particular case of rocket attacks against Israel, the overwhelming number of [Hamas] rocket warheads are in the 10- to 20-pound range.


  • The Iron Dome interceptor has, for all practical purposes, no chance of destroying the warhead on incoming artillery rockets if the interceptor engages the rocket from the side or from the back.  [However,] photographic evidence of aerial contrails indicates that Iron Dome interceptors were mostly chasing or engaging artillery rockets in side-on geometries.
  • Photographs of contrails … from July 2014 indicate that the Iron Domes are behaving erratically —-resulting in continued very low intercept rates. It is clear that the Iron Dome radar tracking and guidance system is not working [correctly], as it is sending Iron Dome interceptors to intercept points that result in the interceptor not being able to achieve the proper geometry for a successful engagement against the artillery rockets.
  • Because of the uncertainties in the exact crossing speed and crossing geometry, even a perfect fuse may fail to put lethal fragments onto the artillery rocket’s warhead.  In addition, unless the distance between the Iron Dome warhead and the warhead of the artillery rocket is small (roughly a meter or so), there will be a greatly diminished chance that a fragment from the Iron Dome warhead will hit, penetrate, and cause the detonation of the artillery rocket warhead.  Thus, [even] a front-on engagement does not guarantee that the Iron Dome interceptor will destroy the warhead on the artillery rocket.
  • Israel does in fact have an extremely effective missile defense: the early warning system that tells people on the ground a rocket is traveling in their direction, and the shelters that are arranged so that individuals can easily get to protection within tens of seconds of warning.  As can be seen by inspecting photographs [of damage from Hamas rockets], even when the rockets happen to hit buildings, the damage tends to be quite localized. This does not mean that individuals in the area of the rocket attack would not be injured or killed if they were close enough to the impact site, but it is very clear that the warheads are not of sufficient size to cause casualties or deaths to those who are properly sheltered.


  • The small size of the Hamas rocket warheads and Israel’s ability to quickly warn populations of these arriving small warheads is an extremely capable defense that works far more effectively than Iron Dome.

There you have it:  Iron Dome may knock the rockets out of the sky (often when they’re already on their way down anyway), but usually doesn’t destroy the (small) explosive warhead.  And those Israeli lives that are being saved?  They’re preserved thanks to an extensive and well-developed civil defense system that emphasizes early warning and nearby bomb shelters for the civilian populace.


Worst of all (from the AIPAC point of view), Prof. Postol obliquely raises the issue of proportionate response to Hamas provocation:

  • In contrast, [Israeli retaliatory] bomb attacks against Gaza in July 2014 use much larger warheads. The exact yields of the bombs are uncertain, but it appears [from photographs of bomb damage that] they are probably in the 1,000- to 2,000-pound category. In these cases, attempts at sheltering the population might well fail, since few shelters can sustain the level of damage that could be inflicted by such large bombs.


Sadly, nobody in Washington seems too interested in preventing Palestinian deaths.  Au contraire.


Now it’s time for AIPAC spammers to “go postol” commenting on this blog.


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