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Israel holds fresh trials of upgraded Iron Dome due to be installed on ships

Defense Ministry says ‘complex’ tests simulated threats the air defense system is liable to face on land and at sea, including drones

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An upgraded version of the Iron Dome air defense system on Monday completed a fresh set of trials simulating threats the system is likely to face on land and at sea, the Defense Ministry said.

The more-advanced model of the Iron Dome is due to be installed on the Israeli Navy’s new Sa’ar-6 corvettes, which are tasked with guarding the natural gas platforms off Israel’s coast as well as its shipping lanes.

The Defense Ministry said the tests, which the Iron Dome passed, represented “an important milestone in developing the system.”

The ministry said the new, upgraded model of the system was due to be integrated into the Israeli Air Force shortly. Though Iron Dome batteries will be located on Israeli Navy ships, they will be operated by air force troops.

In a video released by the ministry (above), the Iron Dome was seen intercepting a small unmanned aerial vehicle during the exercise. The ministry refused to comment further on the nature of the targets the Iron Dome was pitted against and on many other details about the trials.

The test came amid lingering concerns in Israel that Iran, through its Houthi proxy in Yemen, would attempt to attack the Jewish state with armed drones.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz hailed the successful tests, saying, “The defense establishment will continue to stand guard, around the clock and in every place.”

An Iron Dome missile defense system fires an interceptor at a target during an exercise in early 2021. (Defense Ministry)

The tests were conducted on land in central Israel in the direction of the sea, with representatives from the Israeli Air Force’s Air Defense Command and the navy taking part.

“During the trial, a number of scenarios of future threats the system is likely to encounter during a conflict on land and at sea were simulated,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The tests were held a month and a half after the ministry conducted an unprecedentedly complex air defense exercise, in which the Iron Dome was proven effective against not only the rockets, mortar shells and drones that it had already been used to intercept, but also cruise missiles — a major leap forward in the system’s capabilities.

In that exercise in December, the Defense Ministry also tested a new version of the medium-range David’s Sling air defense system, which is currently under development.

David’s Sling was pitted against ballistic missiles, which follow a fixed and predetermined trajectory, as well as the more-difficult-to-hit cruise missiles, which effectively function as small, fast, unmanned airplanes, capable of changing direction and thus better able to evade air defenses.

The Israeli Air Force maintains a multi-tiered missile defense system, which is meant to protect the country from aerial threats.

The lowest layer of Israel’s multi-tiered missile defense system is the Iron Dome. The middle tier of the missile defense array is the David’s Sling system, which is designed to shoot down medium-range projectiles. The farthest range are the Arrow, designed to intercept large ballistic missiles, and the American-made Patriot system, which is used to shoot down aircraft.

However, even with the full complement of missile defense systems, defense officials warn that they will not offer a hermetic seal in the case of all-out war, and some rockets will inevitably slip past the defenses.

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