Israel expanding 'Iron Dome' missile system to warships to protect offshore gas fields

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Israel on Wednesday said it plans to expand a key missile-defense system to warships, in a bid to protect the country’s lucrative offshore gas fields amid growing aerial threats from regional adversaries.

Israel’s military said it had successfully tested a naval version of its land-based Iron Dome system in recent weeks and would begin deploying it on its newest frigates to protect the country’s strategic assets, including its gas rigs.

The naval system is a combination of the land-based Iron Dome missile interceptor and radar systems on ships, the military said. “We call it the Iron Dome of the sea,” Col. Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the Israeli navy, told reporters on a phone call.

Israel’s land-based Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts short-range rockets and has become a bedrock of the country’s defense since its introduction in 2011.

The ship-based Iron Dome system would augment a combination of land-based systems that Israel has jointly developed with the U.S., and that it hopes will provide a layered defense against a variety of short range missile threats to those capable of flying more than 600 miles.

The Iron Dome system intercepted 700 rockets fired by Islamist movement Hamas during the war in Gaza in 2014, a 90% success rate that effectively blunted the Palestinian group’s aerial threat.

During that conflict, Israeli defense officials say Hamas tried to fire rockets at the country’s two gas rigs that sit about 20 miles from Israel’s shore. Since then the military, in coordination with Israeli defense companies, has been developing a naval-based system to negate such a threat.

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