The last and perhaps most important question is why Professor Postol changed his mind from November to now and what made him do so. He was interviewed as a missile defense expert by MIT's Technology Review in an article released on November 26th, 2012, where he claimed that the Iron Dome was effective in intercepting the rockets. I understand he may have more information now than he had then, but the conviction and authority with which he previously praised the Iron Dome has been ignored in these recent news stories and not addressed by Professor Postol himself.
I stumbled upon this post with some technical specifications of the Iron Dome. Assuming that this is correct: the Iron Dome interceptors (Tamir) have a warhead of 11 kg (~24 lbs). The warheads of Fajr-5 are 175 kg according to Wikipedia, while the Hamas/PIJ version (M-75) are 175 lb according to other sources. So let us imagine a hypothetical situation where Postol is correct and these warheads are NOT exploded. Everyone in Tel Aviv (which is a fairly large city) heard an explosion, or perhaps multiple explosions, and many had their houses shake and windows rattle. Is a 20 pound warhead big enough to cause this to happen all over the city? Secondly, if everyone is hearing the 24 pound warhead and the 175 (or 375+ if wikipedia is correct) warhead remains unexploded by the Tamir, why didn't anyone hear/feel/die from the warhead with 8-15 TIMES the mass? This is a simple logical problem with Postol and Lloyd's claims, and it is simply inexplicable that folks have not questioned them. Perhaps it is because of my geographic training and spatial awareness which makes this seem a simple question, but it is shocking that these questions are ignored by so many whose job it is to be asking them. This information circles back to a rather important point which I made in my original post: Is there a difference between Qassam/Katyusha and Grad/Fajr/M302 rockets? Perhaps the Iron Dome DOES have trouble with the shorter range rockets, but if this is the case, why does Postol conflate the two vastly different scenarios? And secondarily, why does Postol conflate ICBM defense, with the type of rocket defense that Iron Dome is intended to be? The more I learn about this, the more strange Postol's argument seems.
The plot thickens! Uzi Rubin in 2006 (before Iron Dome existed), wrote a report about Hezbollah's rockets during the 2006 conflict. The report is available here. About halfway through the report, Exhibit B is an image of a guard-rail with damage from what is described as a 220m Anti-Personnel rocket which Rubin said is likely to be
- "220mm rocket," range 70 km (probably Syrian-manufactured Russian "Ouragan" Multiple Launch Rocket System [MLRS])
In Postol's report from 2013 available here, he used the same image on page 6 and wrote (on the page above) that it was from a Qassam rocket.
Qassam rockets are NOT the same as 220mm rockets, they do not have the same warhead, or range. There are many possibilities; Rubin has misidentified the source of the damage in the image (least likely since his was the original image); Postol has used the wrong description in his paper, which damages his credibility as an expert; Postol used the image knowing it was from another rocket and lied about it on purpose. I used both TinEye.com and Images.Google.com to try and identify the earliest instance of the same image, and all that I could find was links back to Rubin's original paper. This would seem to indicate that Rubin's is the original image and he either took the photo himself, or obtained it directly from someone who was at the scene. Why would Postol take someone else's image and use a misleading description? This is troubling, since so many seem to be taking Postol's account at face-value without asking the tough (or in this case fairly simple) questions. In either case, I would hope that Postol can explain his usage of this image because it is discouraging that an MIT professor would do something so underhanded.
I am ecstatic, finally an article that understands (some of) the basics and asks good questions. Armin Rosen from Business Insider wrote this article about the damage report side of things. While not perfect, it at least asks (some of) the questions that should be asked of Postol and his followers.
Israeli intelligence analyst Yossi Melman tweeted some numbers of rockets sent from Gaza. If they are correct, the Iron Dome's "success rate" would calculate to 83.5% (# intercepted/(# intercepted+ # landed in populated areas)) 584/(584+115). Rockets that are not going to land in populated areas are not worth intercepting, as the damage is likely to be negligible, so the rockets sent to "open areas" should not be considered failures of the Iron Dome. This has been a common misunderstanding by journalists from world-renowned publications as I noted in Update 3.
Rockets summary: 3361fired 584 intercepted 115 landed in populated areas 2542 in open zones 120 disintegrated in #Gaza. daily average 120
— Yossi Melman (@yossi_melman) August 5, 2014
These numbers are not great considering that the IDF has said the system is improving from previous times, but there also has to be some adjustment for the fact that the rockets have been fired in a manner intended to test the limits of the system (e.g. multiple barrages at different cities, or massive barrages sent to one city).