TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel claimed Wednesday that it successfully intercepted a test salvo of shore-launched short-range rockets with a new sea-based version of the Iron Dome.
Col. Ariel Shir, the Israel Navy's head of combat systems development, said the live fire test was conducted two weeks ago using the Adir radar developed by Israel Aerospace Industries/Elta and the Rafael-developed Iron Dome, both of which were integrated aboard the service's INS Lahav Sa'ar-5 corvette-class surface vessel.
"I can say all the threats shot toward our assets were targeted by the Adir radar — one of the most advanced naval radars that exists today — and interception was accomplished by Iron Dome," Shir told reporters Wednesday.
Shir declined to specify how many or what type of threats were intercepted by the new sea-based defensive system, but sources indicated that the test targets were versions of the 122mm Grad.
He insisted, however, that the combination of the ELM-2248 Adir radar and the sea-based Iron Dome was an immediate answer to Israel's need to defend offshore energy assets in the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters.
"It's important to understand that the operational capability tested improves our ability to protect Israeli strategic assets at sea. … It's a mission-oriented capability we can use now," the navy officer said.
He said use of the Adir radar, which is operational aboard the INS Lahav, and maritime versions of Iron Dome will take advantage of technological know-how and operational experience accrued through use of the two pre-existing systems.
"It makes lots of sense," said Uzi Rubin, a former director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization who is an international consultant on the evolving rocket and missile threat.
"Utilization of existing assets, know-how and operational experience make for a very affordable and immediate answer to the rocket threat," Rubin told Defense News on Wednesday.
Shir, the naval officer, said the Israel Navy aims to equip new and larger Sa'ar-6 combat ships under contract with Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) with the new sea-based Iron Dome as well as Barak-8 ship defense systems.
Both systems — the Iron Dome against relatively inexpensive shore-launched rockets and Barak-8, a much more sophisticated anti-missile system against sea-skimming and cruise missile threats — are supported by IAI/Elta's Adir multifunction phased array surveillance, track and guidance radar.
"The plan, for now, is to have both capabilities aboard the Sa'ar-6," Shir said.
He added that the service, together with MoD's Mafat research and development directorate and key Israeli industry, was still "in the first stage" of developing a sea-based version of the Iron Dome and its Tamir intercepting rockets.
A former Israeli industry executive lauded the decision to field both the maritime Iron Dome — marketed by Rafael as C-Dome — and the more sophisticated Barak-8 as "very smart." While the two systems may overlap against certain threats, the former executive said, the maritime Iron Dome would be "in order of magnitude cheaper" than Barak-8 against enemy rockets.
"If you need to intercept a 122mm rocket, why waste a $1 million missile? Iron Dome on shore or at sea is by far the most cost-effective answer to this type of threat," he said.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.