analysisIsrael News

Russia’s UAV onslaught ups interest in Israeli defense system

Rafael’s Drone Dome is already active in Dubai, protecting the Gulf city from attack.

Rafael's Drone Dome system, which the company describes as an effective way to conduct airspace defense “against hostile drones used by terrorists and criminals to perform aerial attacks, collect intelligence and carry out intimidating activities.” Credit: Rafael Industries.
Rafael's Drone Dome system, which the company describes as an effective way to conduct airspace defense “against hostile drones used by terrorists and criminals to perform aerial attacks, collect intelligence and carry out intimidating activities.” Credit: Rafael Industries.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

Russia’s massive use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, including Iranian-made systems, in Ukraine has boosted interest in an Israeli counter-drone system in NATO countries and beyond.

Rafael’s Drone Dome system has already been deployed in Dubai, and is also protecting airports, military targets and borders in a number of NATO states, as well as in Asian countries, Rafael sources have confirmed.

The system is also being tested by the United States Federal Aviation Administration at Atlantic City international Airport. Last year, the Pentagon authorized it to compete in federal programs for counter-drone systems. It was one of three that received the usable service approval.

The U.S. military reportedly recommended it for its global combatant commands.

“Drone Dome deals with both swarm attacks and single threats,” a Rafael source stated on Wednesday.

The system has recently been upgraded to deal with Class 2 type UAVs, a category that includes heavier military drones, in addition to the smaller multi-rotor copters that will likely end up being increasingly used by terrorist organizations and non-state actors.

In March, Dubai Police and Rafael announced that they were cooperating in a counter-drone program, and since then Rafael engineers have been on the ground in the Gulf emirate, helping local authorities make the system operational, JNS has learned.

“At Dubai Police, we recognize the importance of staying ahead of emerging threats and utilizing cutting-edge technologies to enhance the safety and security of our community. Our collaboration with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. is a testament to our commitment to addressing regional UAS [unmanned aerial system] challenges and safeguarding  valued assets,” said Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Al Razzoqi, director of the General Department of Operations at Dubai Police.   

Drone Dome provides 360-degree rapid defense against a variety of drones, and employs artificial intelligence algorithms to detect, identify, track and neutralize the threats.

The system relies on signals intelligence to detect threats, and where necessary, radar as well. After detection, the system employs advanced optical and infrared sensors to locate the threat, before visually identifying it.

To neutralize the target, the system employs electronic warfare to block the drone’s ability to communicate and use GPS navigation.  It can also use a 10-kilowatt laser for a “hard kill” at a range of up to 2 miles.

The British military has in past years purchased several systems, notably deploying it in 2021 to defend the G7 Summit, and earlier, in 2018 at Gatwick Airport, after a number of drone intrusions.

 During a live fire trial in 2020, the system shot down several drones with its laser beam, achieving a 100 percent interception success rate.

The Iranian drone threat

Four U.S. federal executive departments—State, Commerce, Justice and the Treasury—issued a warning on June 9 to “alert persons and businesses globally” about the Islamic Republic’s drone program.

“Iran’s procurement, development and proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles is an increasing threat to international peace and security,” the warning stated. There is a “need to take appropriate steps to avoid or prevent any activities that would support the further development of Iran’s UAV program,” it added.

Tehran’s drone program “destabilizes the Middle East region and beyond,” it continued. “Over the past 10 years, Iran has increased its inventory of both armed and unarmed UAVs, whose low cost, simplicity of production and ease of use make them appealing to entities and countries of concern to which Iran may transfer them.”

These include Russia, Tajikistan and the Houthis in Yemen, according to the statement.

In October, the United States, United Kingdom and France jointly raised the issue of Iran’s transfer of attack drones to Russia at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Council members received expert briefings on the matter, and the Western nations expressed  “grave concerns about Russia’s acquisition of these UAVs from Iran in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 2231,” which formally endorsed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “As Iran continues to lie and deny providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine, we are committed to working with allies and partners to prevent the transfer of dangerous weaponry to Russia.

“We will not hesitate to use our sanctions and other appropriate tools on all involved in these transfers. We will also continue to surge unprecedented security assistance to Ukraine, including air defense capabilities, so that Ukraine can defend itself from these weapons.”

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