Naval Iron Dome successfully tested, as Iran hits another tanker

A photo of the C-Dome system being live fired. (Israeli MoD)

TEL AVIV — Just days after an Iranian drone rammed an oil tanker off the coast of Oman, the Israeli Navy and its industry partner Rafael announced the successful completion of an advanced intercept test of a new naval variant of the system. Iron Dome.

The C-Dome, as it’s called, is designed to go on ships and provide the same protection against rockets, missiles, and small drones as Iron Dome does on land.

According to an announcement from the Israeli Ministry of Defense on Thursday morning, the system was installed on the INS corvette “Oz”. According to the statement, “The test simulated real-life threats and included the system’s successful detection and interception of targets in challenging scenarios.”

Moshe Patel, the head of Israel’s missile defense effort, said the C-Dome “promotes greater operational flexibility and has become part of the state’s multi-level missile and air defense network. of Israel”. It will fit into the existing levels of Israel’s air defense network, consisting of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3.

The timing of the announcement being made so soon after the Iranian UAV attack was coincidental, but underscores why Israel started investing in C-Dome in the first place.

The attack by an armed drone, probably the Shaed-136, occurred on Tuesday against the oil tanker Pacific Zircon near Oman. In a statement to Reuters, the company (based in Singapore but controlled by Israeli businessman Idan Ofer) said the vessel “was hit by a projectile… There is some minor damage to the hull of the ship but no cargo spillage or water ingress”.

In July 2021, Iran targeted the oil tanker Mercer Street with drones. A drone slammed into the deck of the ship, killing two crew members. Israel anticipated more such attacks, hence the investment in systems like C-Dome.

On Tuesday, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet said it found more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate on the ship. This chemical is typically used to make rocket and missile fuel, as well as explosives.

“It was a massive amount of explosive material, enough to power more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles depending on size,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of Central Force Command. US Navy, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.

While the Israeli Navy is present in the area, Israeli defense sources said on November 17 that they would like to see the US Fifth Fleet be more active in deterring Iran from repeating such attacks. Ideally, sources said, this would include more frequent patrols with more sensors in the area and a more active posture to intercept Iranian drones when detected.

Giora Eiland, the former director of Israel’s National Security Council and former head of the Israel Defense Forces Planning Department, told Breaking Defense that unless Iran takes deterrent action after such a strikes, Tehran will be encouraged to try again.

“Such types of attacks [start] on a small scale, but without an immediate counteraction, the scale will increase very quickly,” Eiland said. He added that the US statement identifying Iran as the perpetrators of the attacks is worthless without direct activity behind it.

“The lack of real action is a settlement, and Iranians have good ears,” he said. “The Fifth Fleet should take more active measures, otherwise things will deteriorate.”

Since the Iranians lack a real navy, Eliezer Marom, a former Israeli navy commander, recently told Breaking Defense that Iran has turned to “maritime guerrilla” activity, deploying explosive boats and armed drones to attack American and Israeli targets. The Iranians may be able to hit some targets through open fire orders in both navies, which are based on positive identification of danger, but they are still quite intermittent.

Marom noted that it is simple for the Iranians to conceal their activity until they are close to a potential target in the two very popular shipping channels, the Gulf and the Red Sea.

The Iranian Navy‘s First Drone Division has recently started operations in the Indian Ocean, according to recent announcements.

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