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U.S. Army Buys Israel's Iron Dome as Patriot Missile Fails

Updated on February 8, 2019
Iron Dome System
Iron Dome System

The American Patriot Missile System has been thought of being a very successful way of intercepting incoming enemy missiles. It was first used during Desert Storm in 1991, where reports indicated that is was very successful. The public was led to believe the that the Patriot had near-perfect performance, intercepting 45 of 47 Scud missiles. After the war, the Army revised its findings down to 23 out of 47. However, not satisfied, a US Congress hearing on the weapon system discovered that Army had not told the truth and that the number of true intercepts was not 45 out of 47, not 23 out of 47, but in the single digits, meaning not more than 5 out of 47! One of the Scuds landed on a US Army encampment killing 28 soldiers. Subsequent studies showed that the error in the system had been a computer calculation when targeting the incoming missile. The report showed that only 9% of the incoming Scud missiles were hit and the U.S. Army had misled the public intentionally. It was found that the breakup of the Scud missile as it reentered the atmosphere seem to have contributed to the high failure rate and created multiple targeting objects that confused the Patriot system. The system cannot determine if the Patriot missile actually hit its intended target but only where the intended target is will be as it explodes in front of the target. At least 45 percent of the 158 Patriots launched in the war were launched against debris or false targets as the Scud missile broke into many pieces on re-entry. The report investigation concluded that of the 158 Patriot missiles fired, only a few Scuds warheads had been destroyed because the warhead detaches from the Scud missile at some point towards the target. The Army indicated that 25% of those warheads were destroyed.

Fast Forward to 2017

In late 2017, Houthi forces in Yemen fired seven missiles at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was confirmed that all were successfully destroyed using the Patriot. But the truth was later revealed that one Patriot exploded soon after its launch, another went up and did a U-turn back to earth. The remaining Patriots fired faced a missile where the warhead detached from the body and like in 1991, caused the Patriot to miss the warhead and detonating near the missile body. One missile hit the International Airport and another demolished a Saudi Honda dealership. The cause of the failure is still not solved.

Israel's Iron Dome

The US Army shocked the press when it announced that it would buy two Iron Dome systems to protect American troops in the Middle East. This clearly shows that the confidence in the Patriot system is low. The Iron Dome system has a 90% effective rate of missile interception since becoming active in 2011. Ironically, it was created with the American partnership of Raytheon for the Tamir interceptor missile that is part of the Iron Dome. Raytheon created the Patriot!

The Iron Dome targets incoming short range missiles, mortars, and artillery. It offers not only missile superiority but a much better radar and more sophisticated fire control system. The Iron Dome missiles cost $40,000 to $50,000 each and are far more cost-effective than Patriot interceptor missiles, which cost roughly $2 million each! Four Patriot batteries cost $10 billion, while two Iron Dome systems cost $373 million. In fact, Israel has created the Arrow III system that will replace the questionable US Patriot.

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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Like everything else, they tell you it's the best when actually it's just the best they have at the moment.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      14 months ago

      For sure, but the real record of the Patriot was exposed after 1991 and even more recently. If the US Army has decided to buy the Israeli version, that tells you a lot about the confidence level it has in the system.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I was in Riyadh in 1991 with my family, and I can confirm the information you cited. At $1m a round, when the SCUD broke up and the Patriots interpreted that to mean more incoming missiles, the dollar amount ratcheted up quickly! Because my children were somewhere under those incoming SCUDS, I thought it was the best money the US had ever spent - understandably!

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