Updated April 15th, 2024 at 21:08 IST

How Much Did Israel Have to Pay for its '99.9%' Interception of Iran's Attack?

Experts have estimated the cost of the Israeli interception of Iran's attack at anywhere from around $550 million to over $1 billion.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Israel claims to have intercepted 99.9 per cent of the drones and missiles Iran and its proxies used on Saturday. | Image:X

In an unprecedented attack that set the region on the knife-edge of a major conflict, Iran launched around 350 drones and missiles against Israel late on Saturday, with Tehran's proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq also contributing to the attack. Regardless of the scale of the attack, Israel and its allies were seemingly well-prepared to take it head-on, with reports indicating that 99.9 per cent of munitions were intercepted before they could do any harm. The US, the most significant of all of Israel's allies and a nation that played its own key role in the interception, hailed the nation's “incredible military achievement” after the attack. 

But what was the financial cost of this 'incredible military achievement"? Following the attack, several experts attempted to answer the question and gave varying estimates to different media channels, with the cost ranging from $550 million to over $1 billion. 


Significant material cost

Before getting into what the experts have said, it is important to establish certain facts. To begin with, Israel was not the only nation involved in the interceptions and, thus, the estimates being given by the experts are not fully representative of the financial cost of defending the Iranian attack. Second, reports indicate that Israel carried out the interceptions using its famed three-layer defence system in conjunction with several dozen fighter jets including the next-generation F-35. 


Israel's three-layer defence system is both high-tech and very expensive. The first layer of this defence, meant for close-range threats, is the Iron Dome which is frequently used to intercept rocket strikes from Gaza and, occasionally, Lebanon. A single Iron Dome interceptor, which may be used to take down everything from a mortar shell to a drone, costs approximately $50,000. 

Next, there is the David's Sling, also referred to as the ‘Magic Wand’ which is used to target mid-range threats. Brigadier General Reem Aminoach, a former financial advisor to the IDF chief of staff, told Israel's Ynet News that one of Magic Wand interceptors can cost as much as $1 million. 


Finally, there are the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 systems, meant to take on long-range, even extra-atmospheric threats like ballistic missiles. A single interceptor from such systems can cost anywhere from $2 million to $3.5 million according to Israeli defence industry sources quoted in a Reuters report. 

Add to this the cost of keeping several fighter jets in the air for hours to carry out interceptions and the price tag balloons significantly. It may be noted, for instance, that the US, which has not only developed but also uses the same F-35 jets that Israel employed as part of its air defence strategy, pays around $40,000 per hour to keep just one of the high-tech fighter jets in the air.


While this may not be exactly what Israel pays for the same, it is at least indicative of the cost of using such a platform.

So what is the final price tag? As noted above, there have been a few different estimates. Yehoshua Kalisky, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv's Institute of National Security Studies told the Wall Street Journal that the the cost of intercepting Iran's attack was likely around 2.1 billion shekels or more than $550 million. This, he noted, is comparable to the price Israel paid for fighting entire wars, such as the 1973 Arab-Israel war.


Another estimate, this time courtesy of the aforementioned Brigadier General Reem Aminoach, goes even higher. While speaking to Ynet News, the former financial advisor to the IDF chief of staff estimated that the Israeli defensive mission may have cost somewhere between 4-5 billion shekels or $1.08-1.35 billion. 

Regardless of which estimate one chooses to believe, the cost of Israel's ‘incredible military achievement’ was undeniably significant. But it is important to note two things in this regard. First, the infrastructure damage and cost to life would likely have been far higher if Israel and its high-tech defence systems had not worked as advertised.


Second, the US, in the past, has not only funded the development and construction of systems like the Iron Dome using American taxpayer dollars but has also, time and again, funded at least some part of the replenishment cost for the interceptors that are used. 


Published April 15th, 2024 at 20:57 IST