Given Israel's rather, ahem, tumultuous relationship with its neighbors, it has certain unique security needs—like a solid air defense from short range rockets and mortars fired over the Gaza border. That's why, to defend its civilian centers, Israel has recently deployed an anti-ordnance system known as the Iron Dome.

It really is called the Iron Dome, but this isn't a comically-oversized, city-enveloping shell (besides, the Simpsons already did that gag). It's a mobile air defense battery developed by the Israeli security firm, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The Iron Dome is designed to identify and intercept short-range rockets and mortar shells as much as 70 km away, as they fly toward populated areas along the Gaza border. The first battery deployed to Beersheba in March of 2011. Since then, it has shot down 93 rockets at a 90 percent success rate.

The Iron Dome owes its sharpshooting capabilities to a three-part design. Incoming threats are first picked up by a Detection and Tracking Radar system built by ELTA. Much like America's X-band system, this radar tracks and monitors inbound trajectory, feeding the information to a separate Battle Management and Weapon Control (BMC) station for processing and human verification. If the rocket looks like it will hit a populated area, the Iron Dome activates a remote missile battery to intercept it.

The Iron Dome utilizes specially-built interceptor missiles, known as Tamirs. These highly-maneuverable Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) measure nearly ten feet in length, with a diameter of more than six inches and weight of 200 pounds. Each $40,000 GBI is outfitted with electro-optic sensors, a data uplink to receive trajectory corrections from the BMC, and it is detonated by a proximity fuse. Interestingly, the missiles are programmed to not directly hit the inbound. Instead, they get ahead of it and detonate in front, effectively knocking the threat out of the air. These launch from one of three launch platforms (each carrying 20 Tamirs) tethered to a central BMC. Each battery is reportedly able to protect an area of 150 square kilometers.

Hezbollah lobbed more than 4,000 warheads over the Gaza border in 2006 alone. Now, the US, which has already spent $205 million supporting the Iron Dome, is thinking about sinking another $70 million in the program. [Rafael - Reuters - Wikipedia - Defpro - Image: NatanFlayer]