Why does India need the Iron Dome missile system?
Iron Dome system, designed and operated by Israeli Armed Forces, has proven to be a very effective method of protecting the civilian population from militant forces that fire artillery & rocket projectiles from Palestinian territories into Israel.
Now the question arises, Why India Needs It?
Well India has been subject to intensive shelling in the border areas of Kashmir from Pakistan artillery. This year alone, there were over 200 incidents of ceasefire violation where mortar shells and rockets landed in residential areas, causing immense loss of life and property. To counter this barrage of shells, the Indian Army has initiated discussions with Israel for buying the state of the art Iron Dome missile systems.
These systems can destroy incoming artillery & mortar shells as well as unguided rockets in mid air. They are equipped with an advanced radar and tracking systems that detect incoming shells that are launched from several kilometers away. Once detected, the system launches missiles to intercept the shells.
In the Indo-Pak context, India needs to defend border towns and upfront military formations from artillery attack. The Iron Dome could also be a good defence against ‘Nasr’, the Pakistani tactical nuclear weapon system reportedly under development. India would prefer joint development and production of the system with technology transfer so that it can complement the Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme. Indian critics say that the Iron Dome is essentially a theatre rocket defence system and far from a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. It might have worked with Hamas’ Qassam, Grad, WS-1E and Fajr-5 rockets but are no match for Pakistan’s larger, farther reaching and more powerful ballistic missiles.
India is a much larger country and as far as I know does not face terrorist rockets on an ongoing basis. It takes a lot of Iron Dome batteries to properly defend a long border such as that between Indian and Pakistan and the cost of each battery plus the $40,000+ cost of each Iron Dome Tamir interceptor rocket is expensive. Especially when one considers the number of missiles that Pakistan could theoretically launch over the border, presumably easily overwhelming the Iron Dome. Thus such massed short range defenses are presumably not to cover the whole border but to provide future layered defence for specific high value Indian assets.
The DRDO is currently collaborating with Israeli firms to develop medium and long range surface-to-air missiles MRSAMs and LRSAMs…
There are three phases during which a long range missile/rocket can be intercepted. The boost phase intercept is when the missile has yet to jettison motors and presents a large target. Interceptor will have to be close to the border. In mid-phase, the missile is at very high altitude. In the terminal phase, it is of small in size and travelling at very high speed and thus difficult to intercept. In the Indo-Pak context, the Iron Dome class of system could best be used against battlefield weapons such as Nasr to defend frontier towns and army formations. The 60-km range Nasr being nuclear capable, its destruction would be crucial. The system could also do well against low-velocity Babur cruise missile.
India proposes to field the BMD systems around New Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai. Its own two-tiered defence system consists of two interceptors, the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD), whose effectiveness India’s DRDO claims is better than that of the US Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3). The combined effect of the Iron Dome and India’s BMD should reduce the threat from Pakistani missiles. India would certainly require a better than 80 per cent kill success rate against nuclear tactical missiles. India’s interest in the Iron Dome has generated both concern and interest among other militaries.