Air Defense: Iron Dome Goes Amphibious


December 26, 2017: In late 2017 Israel declared the modifications to the Iron Dome fire control system and the more advanced Adir system used on Saar corvettes to be ready for service. This upgrade effort began in early 2016 with tests that demonstrated Iron Dome could be operated from a ship or offshore platform. This version was called C-Dome. The late 2017 tests were to confirm that Iron Dome batteries on land could share target information with Saar class ships offshore. The late 2017 tests were done using a Saar 5 class corvette, which does not normally carry the C-Dome system. But the ability of ship based and land based Iron Dome systems to share information means that Saar class corvettes can be quickly moved to the north (near the Lebanese border) or south (the Gaza border) to provide additional Iron Dome radar coverage as well as the use of the ship based Barak 8 missiles. Iron Dome and C-Dome have a unique feature in which the radar system computes where the incoming rocket will land. If the rocket will not hit an inhabited (by ships, people or off-shore facility) area, it will be ignored. Otherwise, an interceptor missile will be fired.

Earlier in 2017 Israel revealed that it had modified the design of the four Saar 6 corvettes being built in Germany to improve their anti-missile capabilities. The modification adds two launchers (each with 20 Tamir missiles) used by the C-Dome. This will delay the date (now 2020) for the first Saar 6 to enter service. The other three will arrive at six month intervals. The latest change means the 2,000 ton Saar 6 will be armed with a 76mm cannon, a remotely operated 25mm autocannon, 32 VLS cells for Barak 8 air defense (against aircraft and missiles) missiles, C-Dome, 16 anti-ship missiles, two torpedo tubes and a helicopter (like the SH-60). The 90 meter (288 foot) ship has a max speed of 46 kilometers an hour, crew of 70 and enough fuel and crew supplies to remain at sea ten days at a time. The ships is equipped with an AESA radar like the one used for the American Aegis air defense system used on American warships. Both Barak 8 and C-Dome missiles have a range of 70 kilometers and use the same Israeli designed AESA radar and fire control system.

The Saar 6 ships will mainly guard the Mediterranean Coast, especially the offshore natural gas fields. Israel began pumping natural gas in 2013 from deposits discovered and developed since 2008. Israeli firms have found over $200 billion worth of oil and gas there so far. Israel is determined to use these finds to achieve energy independence by the end of the decade. But first the offshore facilities and pipelines have to be defended from terrorists and military threats. Some of the offshore gas wells are within range of rockets fired from Gaza or southern Lebanon (where Hezbollah does as it wants). The unguided rockets are not accurate enough to hit a gas well, unless dozens (or more) were fired at once. To make counter that tactic some of the offshore platforms will also be equipped with C-Dome batteries.




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