April 14, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Getting to know the defense systems that keep Israel safe from Iranian threats

The Iranian threat met the aerial and technological superiority of the IDF, along with a strong fighting coalition - which together intercepted the overwhelming majority of the threats.
April 14, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Getting to know the defense systems that keep Israel safe from Iranian threats

The Iranian threat met the aerial and technological superiority of the IDF, along with a strong fighting coalition - which together intercepted the overwhelming majority of the threats.

Israel’s air and missile defenses were used to an unprecedented degree overnight to intercept hundreds of threats from Iran. “Last night, Iran initiated an attack against Israel, launching over 300 threats of various types. The Iranian threat met the aerial and technological superiority of the IDF, along with a strong fighting coalition – which together intercepted the overwhelming majority of the threats.

99% of the threats launched towards Israeli territory were intercepted – a very significant strategic achievement,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Israel intercepted the majority of the threats using various types of weapon systems. For instance, the surface-to-surface missiles that were launched were intercepted by the Arrow air defense system “together with Israel’s strategic allies, before the launches crossed into Israeli territory,” the IDF noted. In addition, the IDF noted that there were numerous drones, “as well as dozens of cruise missiles” that targeted Israel.

“Dozens of IAF fighter jets” were used to intercept some of these threats. The IDF showed F-35 fifth-generation warplanes landing in the wake of the air defense mission.

Israel has a variety of air defenses that it was able to use to defend the country against this unprecedented threat. What follows is a look at Israel’s air defense array.


The Arrow air defense system is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missile threats. The Arrow program dates from the 1980s when countries such as Iraq acquired Scud surface-to-surface missiles that could threaten Israel. The Arrow program was backed by the US and jointly developed by Israel and the US. The system went through several generations, eventually reaching the modern Arrow 3. Arrow 3 was first deployed in 2017. That system saw its first operational interception in November 2023, soon after a successful first interception by the older Arrow 2.

“The Arrow 3 system is co-developed and co-produced by the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) in the Israel Ministry of Defense and the United States Missile Defense Agency (MDA), led by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is one of the most advanced air and missile defense systems of its kind in the world for the interception of exo-atmospheric ballistic missiles,” the IDF notes.

It can intercept exo-atmospheric threats, meaning ballistic missiles that exit and re-enter the atmosphere. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the primary contractor for the system. “Elbit Systems is responsible for the development of the BMC system.

Tomer and Rafael Advanced Systems are the main subcontractors for the development and production of the ‘Arrow 3’ interceptor,” the IDF notes.

The Arrow system uses the Green Pine radar. This radar system was developed by IAI’s Elta subsidiary in the 1990s. It was used successfully during the recent conflict to defend Israel against threats. These threats have included the threats from the Iranian-backed Houthis.

According to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, the radar can detect threats up to 900km in its most upgraded form. “It can track up to 30 targets traveling at 10,000 ft/s, and advanced tracking technology allows Green Pine to guide Arrow-2 interceptors within 4 m of the target—discriminating between decoys and true threats—before detonating their fragmentation warhead for intercept,” the MDAA notes.

Prior to April 13 the Arrow system had carried out at least seven interceptions in the wake of the Hamas attack on October 7. The night between April 13 and 14 appears to have vastly increased its successful interceptions. Israel has sold the Arrow system to Germany.

David’s Sling

The David’s Sling system was developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It was first used in May 2023 and has seen numerous successes since the October 7 Hamas attack. For instance on February 26 the IDF noted that the system intercepted a surface-to-air missile that was fired toward an IDF drone.

David’s Sling was used to intercept dozens of threats between October and February, the Israel Air Force noted.

David’s Sling was also jointly developed with the US, like Arrow. It is supposed to build on the medium-range interception capabilities of the Patriot batteries that Israel has used over the last decades. Rafael also partners with the US defense giant Raytheon where David’s Sling’s interceptor is known as the Stunner and the system is known as SkyCeptor.  

Iron Dome

Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is the lower tier of the multi-layered integrated air defenses. It has been used primarily against short-range rocket threats from Gaza, as well as against drones, mortars, and other threats. It has carried out thousands of interceptions since first being used in 2011.

It was developed after the 2006 Lebanon war but has mostly seen action on the Gaza front. In the recent war, it has been pressed into service on all fronts. This is because terrorists in Gaza first 9,000 munitions at Israel, while Hezbollah has launched 3,000, and there have been attacks from Syria.

This also included longer-range surface-to-surface missile threats.

Iron Dome has been upgraded over the years to intercept more threats. In addition, Rafael, which makes Iron Dome, has sought to add laser air defenses to the system, an addition called Iron Beam. Those may be ready by 2025.

Iron Dome is used with the ELM-2084 MMR radar, which is made by IAI’s Elta. This is a radar that can track, identify, and classify hundreds of threats. The same radar is used with David’s Sling. Iron Dome is also made in partnership with Raytheon in the US.


Israel has had access to Patriot air defenses for decades. However, the Israel Air Force noted in February that “as part of the processes of operational efficiency in the Air Force, it was decided that several batteries of the ‘Yahlom’ (Patriot) system will go out of use and its personnel will undergo a several-week conversion to operate the Iron Dome defense system.

The process is intended to benefit the establishment of additional iron dome batteries in the future. According to the plan, in the near future, the first additional operational Iron Dome battery will be opened.”

Other air defenses

Israel recently used its C-Dome, the naval version of the Iron Dome, for the first time. Israel also has Barak air defense missiles. The C-Dome and Barak are both on the Sa’ar 6 ships. The Barak air defense system is made by IAI. These ships also have the new advanced MF-STAR radar made by IAI’s Elta.

In addition, Israeli companies make other air defense systems that are sold abroad. For instance, Rafael makes the Spyder air defense system, which can be used against a variety of aerial targets.


Israel also uses warplanes and other aircraft as part of its air defenses. A new special mission aircraft called the Oron is a kind of advanced jet that became operational last year. It has been used during the current conflict. It was made by IAI and has a variety of sensors and systems. It looks like a business jet.

“Oron is capable of providing real-time air support for special forces terror crackdowns in Jenin, reconnaissance missions in Rafah to pluck out Hamas terrorists hiding among civilians, spotting weapons convoys from Iran to Iraq, identifying key personnel in the Iran nuclear program and targeting a vehicle carrying terrorists in the middle of Beirut, all in one flight. The Oron can conduct all of the above from over 40,000 feet,” Ynet noted last year.

Israeli warplanes such as the F-35, F-16 and F-15 may have also been used in various capacities during the historic night of interceptions. The F-16 and F-15 carry Python 5 missiles which can be used in missions to shoot down aerial targets, such as drones. Together Israel has some of the most impressive air defense capabilities in the world.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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