Operation Pillar of Defense
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|Llan Gattegno||November 22nd 2012|
Over the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense, the Iron Dome system intercepted more than 420 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The system is the result of tireless work over many years, and the results speak for themselves.
The core team that led the Iron Dome development was comprised entirely of graduates of the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. In an interview published on the Technion website, some of Iron Dome's developers spoke about their work.
"Credit for the system’s success is shared by the hundreds of engineers, technicians, and managers who took part in its development; but the people sitting here with me are definitely the key players,” said a team member identified only as H., a 1975 Technion graduate. “The development of Iron Dome transformed our lives, dictating a hectic work week and some weekends," H. said. "I never got home before 11 p.m., and of course I didn’t take a single day off for three whole years. But I don’t regret a single moment.”
H. said the challenge was to develop a system capable of identifying aerial threats, mainly rockets, and eliminating them autonomously. “Our system includes a sensor that locates the threat, a command and control center that analyzes the rocket’s trajectory and its damage potential, and an interceptor (missile) that eliminates it. It’s a very complex system,” H. said. “Qassam rockets are comprised of makeshift components, and their trajectories are very ‘wobbly,’ rather than smooth. Imagine a coke bottle flying several times faster than the speed of sound on an irregular course. Intercepting it seems farfetched.”
According to H., the team was given a tight 30-month window to develop Iron Dome. By comparison, the team worked for more than 10 years on its previous missile development project. The team found many creative solutions to problems during the development process.
"This is the only missile in the world that includes parts from Toys R Us," H. said. "One day, I brought my son's toy car to work. We passed it around and saw that there were parts that really suited us. I can't say any more than that." Another team member, C., described the complexity of the process involved in developing the system.
“A very large number of hardware and software components must be integrated to put together Iron Dome’s systems (interceptor, launcher, command and control center, and radar)," C. said. "We had to use a novel integration and testing strategy that enabled us to quickly combine sub-systems from the different development teams and test the complete functioning system."
A., the systems engineer for the interceptor and launcher, said: “One Friday in 2007 I was home, frustrated by the rocket attacks being launched on Sderot. I said to myself, we just have to do something. Early the next week, D. took me aside and invited me to join the Iron Dome team. It was like a dream come true.”
Llan Gattegno writes for Israel Hayom, from where this article is adapted.