Last November, the Israeli Navy and the Air Force’s air defense corps carried out a successful test of an Iron Dome system mounted on a Navy Sa’ar 5 corvette. The IDF noted that the system is expected to provide a defensive response against rocket fire for Israel’s economic assets on the high seas. When the experiment was concluded successfully, the IDF declared the system operational.
Israeli Navy commander Major General Eli Sharvit, recently wrote that “Hezbollah has recognized the potential inherent in the maritime space, and therefore it has built a significant offensive missile array, which can be defined as a strategic offensive array in every respect.”
As proof, Sharvit points to Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah’s “gas equation” and his promise of a naval closure his organization would impose on the State of Israel. As early as July 2011, after the first Israeli discovery of a substantial gas field underwater, Nasrallah announced that “Lebanon is capable of protecting its oil and gas treasures and whoever will lay his hands on its assets, we will know how to deal with him.”
Col. Yuval Eilon, commander of the Navy base in Ashdod, wrote that “it can be assumed that in future confrontations the subterranean medium will be threatened significantly by those who wish to harm Israel’s strength.” Eilon presumes that “the range of means and capabilities is wide and varied – from suicide swimmers, through explosive boats to deep-water and explosives expert divers and even dwarf submarines and homemade mining and sabotage systems.”
The Iron Dome system placed on the Sa’ar 5, as part of the Navy’s preparations against Hezbollah threats, is capable of intercepting missile fire going in the direction of the platforms. Next year, the defense system will be reinforced by four Sa’ar 6 ships, equipped with a more advanced anti-missile defense system and other capabilities to deal with possible threats to the platforms.
As part of last November’s experiment, the Iron Dome launcher that was placed on the Lahav a Sa’ar-5 was connected to the ship’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Oren Adir radar, while the entire system was also connected wirelessly to the Iron Dome array on the shore. This created a situation in which the Iron Dome batteries on shore were fed data in real-time from the naval radar, and vice versa.
Incidentally, the IDF decided not to place launchers on the gas rigs themselves for safety reasons, fearing that fire would erupt on the platform during the launching of interceptor missiles.
But the IDF is not expecting Hezbollah to make good on its threats any time soon, for the same reason the terrorist group has been holding on to its estimated hundreds of thousands of warheads: with Israel’s latest retaliatory capabilities, an attack on this scale is by definition a doomsday move, which would result in Lebanon being thrown back to the stone age.