Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Daniel Gold was awarded the Israel Defense Prize in 2012 for his role in inventing and managing the development of the Iron Dome anti-missile/rocket defense system that is credited with protecting much of Israel during last summer’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He is CEO and founder of Gold R&D Technology and Innovation Ltd., and headed R&D at the Israel Ministry of Defense and at the Israel Defense Forces. He was interviewed in connection with his receipt here Sunday of the Protector of Israel Award from the Times of Israel online news organization.
Q: It is said that Iron Dome was very successful in intercepting rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli population centers. Can you quantify that?
A: It intercepted only rockets that the Iron Dome determines were going to land in populated areas rather than open areas or the sea. Its success rate was 90 percent, which is an unprecedented number. Should there be another round of fighting, I’m confident the rate will be even higher.
Why is that?
The product itself is a finished product but it is never finished. It was built to cope with changes in technology.
At least one critic, MIT professor Theodore Postol, had claimed early last year that Iron Dome was not as successful as supporters insisted. He argued that his analysis found that Iron Dome anti-missiles struck only a portion of the enemy rocket, which still exploded anyway.
That is not true. Even in November 2012, it was successful against 1,500 rockets. Last summer, some 4,500 rockets were fired at us. Iron Dome prevented them from reaching the ground. The objective was to explode the enemy missile in mid-air, not just move it.
Iron Dome was conceived and developed within a few years. To what do you attribute that success, given the heavy criticism and skepticism you received when you first broached the idea?
In 2004 and 2005 people objected to us because they thought it could not be done. They said it would take 20 years and billions of dollars. But somehow we finished in three years — from operation to development in three years instead of 15 or 20 years. And the price of development is around 5 percent of any other anti-missile defense system.
How much are the missiles?
About $50,000 to $100,000, depending on how many you buy. It’s a reasonable cost given that the key is damage protection — it allowed the Israeli economy to continue and not be shutdown.
I understand you were prepared to undertake the development of Iron Dome even if the Israeli government could not be persuaded to finance it.
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When they told me no, I said OK and I told my people that we gong to start on it tomorrow. I refused to say we couldn’t do it because we had to save people’s lives. I raised about $14 million from private investors. But in the end, I didn’t need it. I used R&D money at first that I had for other projects, and then I persuaded the government to finish development and to buy a few batteries. Then [President Barack] Obama came into the game and helped us to buy more batteries and missiles, and the rest is history.
When you were given the green light for this project, is it true that you were able to choose from the cream of the crop to help you?
There were about 300 to 400 people throughout Israel working on this. They were the cream of the cream. You saw 24-year-old young ladies working shoulder-to-shoulder with 70-year-olds who were expert in their area.
Hezbollah is said to have more than 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel. Were it to launch hundreds of those missiles at once, would Iron Dome be able to handle them?
The system can cope with it. The question is how many missile batteries you buy and deploy. The system has a fully automatic capability. … Iron Dome is prepared for the future.