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Israel’s Iron Dome Puts AI At The Forefront Of Modern Warfare

Israel’s Iron Dome Puts AI At The Forefront Of Modern Warfare

  • Iron Dome is designed to spot, counter and destroy rockets and 155mm artillery shells, fired from 2.5 miles to 43 miles range.

Palestinian militant groups fired over 2,000 missiles at Israel in the ongoing conflict. Israel’s sky was blazing with enemy missiles intercepted by counter missiles from its Iron Dome Aerial Defense System. The AI-powered anti-missile system is reportedly 90 percent effective.

Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, the Iron Dome is designed to spot, counter and destroy rockets and 155mm artillery shells fired from 2.5 miles to 43 miles range.

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The Iron Dome was first tested in 2008. From drawing board to combat-ready, the development of the system took less than four years. In 2011, it deployed at air forces bases in Israel. 

Iron Dome consists of three core components — the Detection and Tracking Radar, the Battle Management and Weapon Control (BMC), and the Missile Firing Unit. Israeli software company mPrest Systems has built the control system of the Iron Dome.

The Iron Dome (Source: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

AI component

The Iron Dome uses an AI function to determine if the incoming round of short-range rockets and missiles will land on the population or critical assets of the state. The AI system detects, analyses, and ultimately obstructs incoming threats such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), guided missiles, and cruise missiles. 

On detecting and identifying an external rocket, the Iron Dome radar tracks the missile path and, based on that information, the BMC calculates the potential point of impact. If it senses a credible threat, the AI system directs the dome to launch an interceptor or a faster missile against the danger, blowing off the enemy missile at a high altitude or on a neutral area. 

According to the Center for Global Affairs Strategic Studies, Israel has ten such Iron Dome batteries to protect the country’s infrastructure and citizens. Since its development and deployment, the Iron Dome has been upgraded to combat multiple and simultaneous attacks.

According to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, the Iron Dome’ works in any weather conditions, including rain, low clouds, dust storms or heavy fog. To date, the Iron Dome has intercepted more than 2,500 incoming targets. 

Image taken during a test campaign of the Iron Dome (Source: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

Good or bad? 

According to the US Department of Defense, the radar can take inputs from different radars and be tied together with US missile defence systems such as the Patriot and THAAD. In 2017, India had signed a $2 billion deal with Israel to buy the Iron Dome system. Earlier last year, the US Army activated two new batteries of the Iron Dome system in Texas and New Mexico. 

Technology in warfare is a concept as old as the first trebuchet. Countries around the world are turning to technology to upgrade their artillery. 

The Pentagon is counting on AI as a major driver of defence modernisation. The US government has allocated the Pentagon around $841 million for building AI capabilities for 2021, of which more than one-third will go to the JAIC. The DoD has launched a program, called Tradewind, incorporating tech players, academia, and other stakeholders to develop new AI capabilities for the defence forces. Additionally, the Pentagon has started a $10 billion program to centralise data across departments over the cloud.

In India, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is looking to tap low latency communication provided by the 5G technology to power up AI and build UAV for the armed forces. The MoD has established iDEX – an ecosystem to promote defence and aerospace innovation and technology growth by bringing together innovators and entrepreneurs to provide technologically innovative solutions for the modernisation of the Indian military.

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