Israel's Sea-Based Iron Dome Declared Operational

The naval Iron Dome missile defense system was declared operational on Monday after 18 months of rigorous preparations and a series of successful interception attempts carried out at sea

Photo: IDF

The IDF has declared initial operational capability (IOC) of a ship-based version of the Iron Dome intercepting system, in what the military described as a "significant milestone" in its efforts to counter the threat of ballistic missiles.

The announcement came after a live-fire test that destroyed multiple incoming targets at sea. According to Defense News, the latest test concluded more than 18 months of intensive coordination between the Israeli Air Force, the Israeli Navy and local defense industries to integrate Iron Dome with the Adir surveillance, track and guidance radar onboard the INS Lahav, a Sa'ar 5-class corvette. The ELM-2248 Adir radar was initially developed by IAI/ELTA to support the Barak-8 anti-missile and air-defense system.

"Officially, from today, we added another operational layer to defend Israeli assets in the Mediterranean Sea," said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the Air Force’s Aerial Defense Division. "Now there is full connectivity between the ship-based Iron Dome, the Adir radar and our ground-based Iron Dome batteries. It was proven in today’s live-fire test and its performance is excellent," he added.

Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the land-based Iron Dome air defense system has been credited with more than 1,700 successful intercepts since it was first deployed in 2011. "This naval Iron Dome is part of our new Iron Dome battalion … and the merging of land- and sea-based capabilities promises to achieve our goals in the next round of escalation or the next war," Brig. Gen. Haimovich said.

Head of the Weapons Department in the IDF Navy Col. Ziv Barak said lessons from Operation Protective Edge drove requirements for a sea-based Iron Dome for the protection of the Israeli coast, Israeli ships, and offshore energy assets. According to Col. Barak, the integration of the ship-based interceptor and its interoperability with land-based systems could be used to defend against threats beyond its northern border. "For the first time, we used the Adir radar to detect and track threats, and we used Iron Dome missiles to intercept the threats. For the Navy, it’s a very high-value capability," he said.

While the sea-based Iron Dome is currently installed onboard one naval ship, the INS Lahav, there are plans to put the system on additional existing corvettes, Brig. Gen. Haimovich said.

According to the Times of Israel, the IDF announced earlier this year that two Iron Dome batteries would be put on each of the four Sa'ar 6-class warships that are currently under construction in Germany and are scheduled to be delivered to Israel in 2019.