Israel successfully tests shipborne Iron Dome missile interceptor. IDF unveils new weapon that can block short-range ballistic missiles while aboard a moving ship, expected to protect offshore rigs and other assets.

The Israeli Navy tests a new sea-based missile defense system, in a video released on May 18, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)

Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system that can shoot down short-range missiles, dubbing it the “Iron Dome of the Sea,” the navy announced on Wednesday.

The Tamir-Adir system, which the IDF said can shoot down short-range rockets similar to those fired from Gaza, successfully destroyed “several” missiles, Col. Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the navy, said.

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Shir said that during tests carried out two weeks ago, a battery mounted to a ship shot down every one of a salvo of short-range ballistic rockets fired from the shore.

He said the test “proved the Israeli navy’s ability to protect Israel’s strategic assets at sea against short-range strategic rockets.”

A video provided by the army showed a rocket launcher installed on a ship firing at targets in the sky and later intercepting a missile.

During the 2014 Gaza war, Israel deployed its Iron Dome system on land to shoot down rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups across the border, calling the system a game-changer.

The Tamir Adir system uses technology developed for Iron Dome but adjusted for the operational needs of a moving vessel.

The system was in development for several years, but was only unveiled to the public Wednesday.

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The battery is designed to be placed on a moving ship traveling up to cruise speed and will be used to protect strategic assets, such as natural gas rigs, in Israel’s territorial waters.

Included in Israel’s sea assets is a major offshore gas rig around 16 nautical miles from Gaza which the Hamas terror group has previously targeted unsuccessfully.

Any damage to the rig or other rigs under development could be hugely damaging to the Israeli economy, since it provides large amounts of the country’s energy needs and is expected to turn Israel into a gas exporter.

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Navy commandos simulate attack on offshore gas rig.

Elite Flotilla 13 soldiers drill retaking platform from terrorists without use of live rounds, to avoid gas explosion.

Israeli commandos recently simulated a hypothetical terrorist attack on one of Israel’s vulnerable Mediterranean gas rigs, the IDF told reporters on Wednesday.

The drill, involving the Israel Navy’s elite Flotilla 13, took place approximately one month ago. The exercise involved hostile gunmen taking civilians hostage after commandeering one of the offshore rigs. The naval commandos were instructed to reach the rig and retake it from the gunmen without use of firearms, out of concern that gunfire could set the gas alight and cause the rig to explode.

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“The opponent that will scale the rig is not one terrorist wearing a keffiyeh” — a traditional Palestinian headscarf, a navy officer told Haaretz. “It’s going to be someone who understands that this is a strategic asset to the State of Israel.”

Israel closed a deal with Germany for naval vessels bought specifically to protect the gas rigs — but these will not arrive until 2019. In the meantime, Navy frigates are patrolling the waters near the sensitive installations. The navy fears also a scenario in which a missiles fired from shore would strike one of the strategically critical rigs. Such a missile would inflict significant damage to the rig, the officer said, but added that even minor damage inflicted by a missile would have significant psychological consequences for Israel.

During Operation Protective Edge last year, Hamas fired rockets at the port of Ashdod. None threatened Israel’s gas platforms, but several impacted only a short distance from them, Haaretz quoted the officer saying.

The Barak 8 anti-aircraft missile defense system, currently deployed on Israel Navy frigates, was recently adapted to intercept incoming projectiles at a range of 70 kilometers (44 miles). While the system is still undergoing tests, Israel hopes to deploy it in the coming months. In the meantime, the Barak system’s radar is installed on one frigate and provides improved detection of ships and aircraft. Once modified, the Barak 8 missile defense system will become “not unlike a naval Iron Dome,” according to Israel Radio, referring to Israel’s land-based missile defense system that proved effective in intercepting rockets fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The military, particularly the navy, is responsible for defending the gas rigs, according to a government decision from 2013. The security personnel currently stationed on the rigs are former soldiers from elite units who receive professional guidance from the military. Criminals or pirates are a threat to oil and gas rigs around the world, the officer was quoted by Haaretz saying, not just Israel.

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