On the evening of February 6th a report headlined “US to buy Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.
Overall the report’s text gives an accurate account of the story.
“The US military has announced plans to buy and test out Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
The system, which uses radar and interceptor missiles to combat incoming threats, has been in use since 2011.
The US Department of Defence has said the system will be used on a test basis, while it assesses options for the military’s long-term needs.”
The report includes a photograph which was originally captioned “Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel August 9, 2018”.
The BBC however chose to reword that photo’s caption as follows:
“The system, which took billions of dollars to develop, has faced criticism for its cost”.
Criticism from whom? Is that criticism relevant or justified? What is the cost of the system? Is its cost made effective by savings elsewhere? The BBC of course did not bother to answer any of those questions.
In 2015 missile defence expert Uzi Rubin published a paper comparing three conflicts: the 2006 Second Lebanon War – during which Israel did not yet have the Iron Dome – and Operations Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Protective Edge in 2014. With the number of rockets fired in each of those conflicts on record, he was able to calculate the relative lethality of rockets before and after deployment of the defence system.
In addition, Rubin examined the number of claims for government compensation following property damage during those three conflicts.
According to local reports, one Iron Dome interceptor missile costs $50,000, and the estimated price of one battery, including its command and control system, is $50 million.
BBC audiences are of course no strangers to bizarre BBC criticism of the Iron Dome system. While this latest report offers readers ‘related reading’ from November 2012 in the form of a profile of the system and an article by diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, the following year the corporation published at least three reports questioning the system’s effectiveness before changing its tune again in 2017.
Old habits die hard.