The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

Uzi Rubin, ‘father’ of the Arrow, gives Israel mixed grade at confronting existential challenges


Israel needs 360 degrees of air defenses to prevent Iran from a potential devastating attack with UAVs similar to its attack on the Saudis in September, Uzi Rubin, the top Israeli missile defense expert, told The Jerusalem Post.

Speaking to the Post as he launched his new book From Star Wars to Iron Dome on Wednesday, the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security fellow and among the “fathers” of the Arrow missile defense system, Rubin explained that the key for Israel would be prior intelligence and seamless early-warning systems.

In Rubin’s new book, a major issue he probes is how efficiently Israel: 1) sized up new missile threats; 2) built up new concepts and forces to cope with these threats; and 3) followed through in implementing new operational paradigms on the ground to neutralize the threats.

He gives Israel a mixed grade in confronting these challenges.

Rubin identifies a paradox in which, at times, the IDF and other portions of the defense establishment were stuck in outdated thinking, while, at times, elements of the defense establishment cut through red tape with lightning-fast and inspiring cutting-edge results.

Part of the unique challenge that Rubin identifies in the book was that in order to cope with new missile threats from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel was not merely using the wrong tool from an existing defense toolbox.

Before the Iron Dome, the Arrow and David’s Sling became realities, he writes that the country needed to invent an entirely new toolbox, which wealthier powers like the US had already failed miserably at inventing.

In contrast, to confront the current Iranian challenge, such as the dozens of UAVs which devastated the Saudis, Israel does not need a new toolbox.

Rubin told the Post that Israel already has the technology to detect Iranian UAVs and that in some ways they are easier to shoot down than rockets.

Rather, Rubin explained that the challenge with UAVs, unlike rockets, was detection.

If rockets are hard to shoot down, their arc-like trajectory makes detection relatively easy. However, when Iran attacked the Saudis with UAVs, they beat the US and the kingdom’s defenses for tracking rockets by flying extremely low to the ground, said Rubin.

He said that Israel may need to invest massive resources to expand existing detection technology it possesses to cover all of its borders and at a variety of heights, in order to establish a 360-degree wall of detection. Still, this pales in comparison to the difficulty he ran into in earlier years.

Rubin’s book tells in fuller detail than ever before disclosed the breadth of the opposition in the IDF and in certain defense sectors to “wasting” scarce funds on “naïve” and “utopian” ideas like missile defense as opposed to concrete and immediately “useful” ground forces issues.

He explores why the opposition existed, how it was overcome and how, diabolically, Israel managed to blitzkrieg toward sudden stunning missile defense solutions at exactly the right moments in history. This, despite huge delays at earlier stages.

While Rubin has a cynical, cautious and thoroughly-empirical side, the triumphant end of his story regarding the birth of Israel’s missile defense shows that he is also an optimist. He believes strongly that Israel can confront any threat once its top minds close ranks.

If there is one key lesson that his story of overcoming opposition to missile defense in recent decades has for the current Iranian threats, it is that Israel must do all it can now to get ready in advance for the coming storm so that it is not caught unprepared.