The system actually had its start during the first Gulf War, when our Patriot anti-missile batteries failed to protect Israel from Saddam Hussein’s Scuds. That convinced the Israelis they had to develop their own anti-missile technologies.

Theirs was a complex problem of how to create a series of protective umbrellas against the steady barrage of short-range rockets, mortar and 155mm artillery shells that various enemies have been flinging at Israel for years — as well as longer-range missiles like the Scud.

For the Pentagon, developing and deploying a major new weapons system like Iron Dome would take a decade. By contrast, the Israeli Defense Ministry gave Rafael the Iron Dome contract in 2007, and by March 2009 the system was fully ready for testing. The first true shoot-down test had to wait until July that year. More tests followed in 2010, and by March 2011 Iron Dome was declared operational — just two years after it was created.

But the story doesn’t end there.

To catch incoming missiles of a bigger variety, Israel Aerospace Industry makes the Arrow 2 — which, according to its developer Dov Raviv, has a 90 percent probability of knocking out a medium-range ballistic missile; it can even tell a warhead from a decoy.