Photo Credit: Michael Giladi / Flash 90
The Iron Dome system fires interception missiles and rockets fired from Lebanon in the Golan Heights Israeli city of Katzrin, May 17, 2024.

A CNN Report on Thursday suggests that US and Israeli officials share grave concerns about the potential vulnerability of Israel’s northern air defenses, including the renowned Iron Dome system, in the event of a full-scale conflict with Hezbollah.

Last Tuesday, Hezbollah shared a video that was shot by one of its Iranian drones that flew undisturbed over large areas of northern Israel, including the military naval base and Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Interestingly, the posted video omitted areas that are Chinese properties in the Haifa harbor.


IDF Chief of Staff Major General Herzi Halevi stated in response, “Yesterday Hezbollah released a video with a capability that we are familiar with, and we are preparing and building solutions to deal with such capabilities, and other capabilities, whose implementation you will also see in due course.”

But as a Biden administration official put it to CNN on Thursday, “The fact that we have managed to even hold the front for this long has been a miracle. We’re entering a very dangerous period, something could start with little warning.”

Three US officials have disclosed to CNN that the Iran-supported terrorist group’s extensive arsenal of missiles and drones could potentially overwhelm these defenses. A source familiar with the threat assessment highlighted a key worry: Hezbollah’s potential use of a substantial number of precision-guided munitions and missiles. This capability could pose a significant challenge to Israel’s air defense network, including the Iron Dome system which has been crucial in intercepting incoming projectiles.

These apprehensions have intensified as Israel has increasingly signaled to US officials its preparations for a possible land and air offensive into Lebanon. According to US officials who spoke to CNN on Wednesday, Israel has communicated plans to reallocate resources from southern Gaza to northern Israel in anticipation of a potential operation against Hezbollah.

A senior administration official stated, “Our assessment indicates that at least some Iron Dome batteries may be overwhelmed” in such a scenario. This situation underscores the complex strategic challenges facing Israel and the potential limitations of even advanced defense systems against a determined and well-equipped adversary.

The typical air defense missile battery consists of a radar unit, a missile control unit, and several launchers, all located at the same site. Conversely, Iron Dome is built to deploy in a scattered pattern. Each launcher, containing 20 interceptors, is independently deployed and operated remotely via a secure wireless connection. The first Iron Dome battery was deployed on March 27, 2011, near Beer Sheva, with these reported scores:

April: 8 out of 10 (80%)
August: 22 out of 28 (79%)
October: 3 out of 9 (33%)
Total: 33 out of 47 (70%)

Although the system has undergone technical improvements and many more systems are available today compared to 2011, the fixed reality is that in each engagement the Iron Dome can only protect against a given number of missiles, and to overwhelm it, the enemy simply has to shoot more rockets. Also, as has been shown over the past few months, Iron Dome is not as good at hitting Hezbollah drones as it is other missiles.

In early June, Hezbollah disseminated footage allegedly depicting a drone attack that damaged an Iron Dome battery at a military installation in northern Israel. Israeli media outlets reported this as potentially the first documented successful strike against an Iron Dome system.

While the IDF stated they were not aware of any damage to the Iron Dome, two US officials revealed that Israeli officials had expressed concerns about the system’s potential vulnerabilities, particularly in the north. These Israeli officials have reportedly been taken aback by the sophistication of Hezbollah’s attacks thus far.

IDF Chief of Staff Major General Herzi Halevi on Wednesday visited air defense batteries on the northern border, and said, “We are over eight months into a long war, and you are over eight months into the defense, which is a complex defense. This defense gives a great deal of security to the civilians and the IDF, but we are not satisfied with that, we have many other forces in the IDF who are engaged in an attack on Hezbollah. And today we also killed some of their activists.”


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