Five years since the first interception of the “Iron Dome” Defense System, the battalion personnel share the system’s operational highlights and tell us about its development
“In the beginning we viewed ‘Iron Dome’ as a small system, but we all quickly realized that it can execute a wide range of different missions”, says Lt. Col. Liran Cohen, the ‘Iron Dome’ battalion commander, who has been a part of every step of the way since the system was still an idea. “We started out with an interception of a rocket above the city of Ashkelon and today we can mark success in every operational theatre, from north to south, which makes ‘Iron Dome’ a significant system in Israeli defense, which has taken a large part of the security concept in the past few years”.
Beyond the technological achievements and its bright future, it displays impressive human development. Through the colorful area indicators on the computer screens in the Interception Management Center, the interceptors see their homes, which make a mechanical press of a button a feeling of great responsibility. We asked a few soldiers and officers from the division to tell us about their first interception and about what “Iron Dome” means to them.
Day Becomes Night and Night Becomes Day
“I remember my first interception as a baptism of fire, when I just entered my position as a battery commander”, recreated Maj. Shay Kognitzki, who is currently Head of Operations Department in the Aerial Defense Division. “I was on my way to a shift at the Interception Management Center at 5:30 a.m. and suddenly the alarm sounded. I ran to the station and intercepted the target right away, which was a ‘Fatah’ rocket fired from Gaza toward Israel”.
Maj. Kognitzki’s first interception, was an introduction to one of “Iron Dome’s” most intense campaigns, Operation “Cast Lead” in 2012, in which “Iron Dome” combatants intercepted hundreds of rockets launched towards Israel. “That one target, put us in operational tension, we switched to emergency mode in seconds”.
For a new system, any operation or military escalation retroactively become an important lesson. “I have had the privilege of being present for many of ‘Iron Dome”s historical moments. The professional development the division has undergone in understanding the enemy and in lesson learning makes me believe in this division. For them, the sky isn’t the limit”.
The next stop is Operation “Protective Edge” in 2014 in which the “Iron Dome” combatants intercepted about 600 rockets and received the IDF Chief Of Staff Medal of Appreciation for their work. “I remember when we were deployed on Saturday evening, there were many publications in the news about a nearing operation and a lot of pressure surrounded us”, shared SRGT. Idan Shoshani, a communications technician in an “Iron Dome” Battery. “We deployed our equipment into the night and prepared launchers while we saw ones we prepared only minutes ago already intercepting targets in the air. The numbers became immense and the work felt endless. After a few busy days day becomes night and night becomes day but the appreciation and support we received from the citizens, strengthened us immensely and gave us the power to continue”.