It has now been 10 days since Hamas launched its brutal surprise attack on Israel. On Oct 7, Israelis living near the border with Gaza awoke to the deadliest pogrom inflicted on Jewish people since the Holocaust. Terrorists indiscriminately murdered families and workers living in Israel’s southern Kibbutzim, in addition to paragliding into a peaceful music festival and slaughtering at least 260 festival-goers.
Hamas militants tortured, burned alive and sexually violated many of the victims, including infants, the elderly, and foreign workers. In retaliation, the Israeli government has vowed to eliminate the terror group, which first seized control over Gaza in 2007.
The Israel Defense Forces ordered a complete siege of Gaza and has carried out numerous airstrikes targeting Hamas’ high-ranking officials and their assets. As the IDF works toward its mission, a closer look at its weapons and military systems is essential.
The Iron Dome
Perhaps the most crucial component of Israel’s multi-tiered aerial defense strategy is the Iron Dome.
Combined with David’s Sling and the Arrow Interceptor, this air defense system saves Israeli lives every time militant groups launch rockets toward the Jewish state.
Iron Dome has a roughly 90% success rate, and it is able to identify and destroy incoming projectiles before they hit Israel’s civilian centers.
Israeli defense manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems collaborated with Israel Aerospace Industries to design the Dome, which can take down missiles and rockets from a range of 2.5 to 90 miles.
While this critical system has thwarted thousands of attacks launched by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad since its inception nearly 20 years ago, the Dome is not fully invincible. Vulnerable to swarm tactics, the air defense system was not impervious to Hamas’ barrage last week.
Since Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza began, one fighter platform has stood out. The Israeli Air Force’s specialized variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is considered by many industry experts to be the most formidable fifth-generation platform in the skies.
In 2010, the Jewish state became the first nation outside of the airframe’s nine-nation co-development program to obtain a modified version of the F-35. Equipped with a range of domestically produced capabilities, the “Adir” serves Israel’s unique mission sets.
Although Israel’s fleet of Adirs is smaller than its fleet of F-15s and F-16s, its F-35s are unparalleled in the region. In footage published by the IAF’s Twitter, the 2,000-pound class GBU-31 JDAMs are seen next to an Adir fighter.
The Merkava MBT
In a ground invasion of Gaza, the IDF would undoubtedly turn to its fleet of Merkava main battle tanks. The formidable family of tanks has served Israel’s armored corps for more than four decades and has been upgraded over the years.
The latest Merkava Mark 4 variant can fire at moving targets while on the move itself, and it is built to withstand unmanned aerial vehicle assaults better than some of its counterparts. Perhaps the most significant component of more recent Merkava variants is the Trophy active protection system.
As explained by Military Today, the Trophy system uses “Elta Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) fire control radar with 4 flat-panel antennas mounted on the vehicle for a 360 degree field of view. The system has a brief reaction time. When an incoming projectile is detected the internal computer calculates its approach vector as well as optimal time and angle to fire countermeasures. A number of small explosively-formed projectiles are housed in two rotating launchers that are installed on the sides of the vehicle. Once launched these defensive munitions explode and form a very tight and precise cloud of explosive shrapnel.”
The Trophy system’s success in combat has enabled the IDF to act more offensively on the battlefield. If deployed in a ground invasion of Gaza, the Merkava will certainly provide a critical capability.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.