The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) declared a naval component of the Iron Dome rocket and artillery shell defense system operational on Nov. 28 following final successful tests.
The Israeli Navy and Air Force conducted several successful tests with Iron Dome designer Rafael and the Israel Missile Defense Association to evaluate the capabilities of the Naval Iron Dome system. The most recent set of tests was conducted on Nov. 27.
The tests included firing missiles simulated as current weapon threats to Israel, identifying them with the Adir radar system, and then interception with Tamir missiles. The test used an Iron Dome battery installed on the INS Lahav, a Sa’ar 5-class corvette.
The Lahav was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] and commissioned in 1994.
“We have conducted a successful exercise that culminated the effort that the Israeli Navy, Israeli Air Force, and various others started more than a year ago,” Brig. Gen. Dror Fridman said in a statement.
Commander of the IAF Aerial Defense Division, Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich added that “We saw the benefits of the Iron Dome during Operation Protective Edge and we want to eliminate the dangers facing Israel, not only on land, but also at sea.”
In an earlier Nov. 20 test, a ship armed with the naval Iron Dome system successfully intercepted two target missiles launched toward a ship equipped with the system. In the test, three target missiles simulating Grad rockets were fired in a way to threaten Israeli gas platforms. One test missile did not need to be intercepted while Tamir interceptors successfully eliminated the other two targets.
“I have no doubt that in the next campaign, terror organizations will attempt to target Israel’s gas platforms, so the integration of ‘Iron Dome’ systems into naval vessels is of great importance,” Haimovitch said.
Israel currently has two gas platforms, one liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier, and expects a third gas platform in 2019.
The IDF said Naval Iron Dome battalion operators and technicians are carefully chosen and undergo numerous exercises.
Capt. Yaniv Apo, commander of the Naval Battalion, noted the interception process for the land and naval-based Iron Dome are very similar.
“The systems aren't identical and were adjusted to the naval task by the weapon industries,” he said in a statement.
“This is the first time that the ground and naval forces are working together in the vessel's Operations Room. We work in full cooperation – they are in charge of operating the vessel and we are in charge of operating the system,” Apo added.
Lt. Col. Yoni Grinboim, commander of the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) 137th Theater Missile Defense Battalion, welcomed the cooperation between the Navy and Air Force. The 137th Battalion is the IAFs second Iron Dome battalion and was first established in September.
The Iron Dome system based on ships will be operated by Air Force personnel.
“If you would have asked me 20 years ago, as a young officer in the division, if we would cooperate so closely with the Navy, I would have said it was impossible.”
“I have no doubt that the things we are establishing today are the foundation of the future of the relationship between the forces,” Grinboim added.
After the Nov. 20 test, the IDF said the system only needed to complete a fitness and readiness inspection at the end of 2017 before becoming operational.