Israel to arm warships with Iron Dome system to protect gas reserves at sea
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will install its successful Iron Dome missile defence system on warships protecting Israel's off-shore gas drilling platforms, a temporary measure until new warships acquired in a deal with Germany arrive.
Israel has huge and mostly untapped gas fields that cover some 23,000 square km (9,000 square miles) of sea, more than Israel's territory on land.
Israel's Ministry of Defense struck a 430-million Euro ($480-million) deal with Germany in May to purchase four warships to protect its natural gas platforms in the Mediterranean sea -- including the already operational Tamar site and the more extensive site which is currently being developed.
The military sees possible sea-borne or rocket threats to gas facilities from Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, making expanding the naval presence a priority for them.
A senior military official said that the gas platforms are currently protected by the navy's "Sa'ar 5" warships and are equipped with the Barak 1 missile defense system, Haaretz reports.
The new ships, which will be classified as "Sa'ar 6", are expected to arrive by 2019 and will feature the much more advanced Barak 8 missile system, the report said.
In the interim, the military will arm its current ships with batteries from its successful land-based Iron Dome missile defense system, which will be better able to protect Israel's off-shore drilling sites from potential attacks.
The Israeli Navy is planning to test launching Iron Dome interceptors from on-board a battleship in the near future, Haaretz reports.
Presently, the navy conducts routine patrols around the drilling sites and deploys a battleships to protect platforms during times of emergency.
The Navy will also bolster its aerial intelligence capabilities in the areas of the gas sites, and according to Haaretz, a senior military official says that the Navy's defence of the drilling sites will be "improved" by the time gas reserves at the new Levaithan site begin to be developed in 2020.
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