Israel’s navy has decided to add an extra Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system to each of four new warships whose role will include defending natural gas platforms in the Mediterranean from attack, according to a report this week.
A senior naval officer told Defense News that the change was made in light of a growing threat from 122-mm Grad-type rockets and longer-range projectiles in the arsenal of the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah.
Two Iron Dome systems instead of one will be installed in each ship. Each system will be capable of firing up to 20 anti-rocket defense missiles.
The ship-based Barak-8 surface to air missile, jointly developed by Israel and India, will kick in to defend ships and offshore platforms from more sophisticated airborne weapons, the report said.
The alteration may delay the scheduled arrival in 2019 or 2020 of the first of four Sa’ar 6-class corvette warships being built in Germany, according to the report.
Israel signed a €430 million ($480 million) deal with ThyssenKrupp in 2015 to build the four corvettes, with the German government subsidizing a third of the cost.
As each ship arrives at six-month intervals, it will take up to 18 months to prepare the vessels for sailing.
In the meantime, the navy is practicing on the INS Lahav, an Israeli-designed, US-built, Sa’ar-5 corvette,
“On a single platform, we’re putting new radar and two different intercepting systems, all of which are at the cutting edge of technology,” the naval officer told Defense News.
“The risks are immense, but that’s why we’re learning so much about risk-reduction through all the work we’re doing on the Lahav.”
The Sa’ar 6-class corvette ships are at the center of so-called Case 3000 — a graft investigation into allegations that Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron used his ties to the prime minister to influence multi-million dollar naval deals between Israel’s Defense Ministry and ThyssenKrupp.
Netanyahu is not personally implicated in this investigation.
The State Attorney’s Office opened a criminal investigation into the affair last month, when Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit determined there was sufficient evidence and testimony to do so.
Shimron is suspected of pushing for a NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion) contract to purchase submarines for the Israeli Navy and other vessels for protecting the country’s maritime natural gas fields, an effort that could have netted him a hefty fee.
Netanyahu’s own role in the purchase decision, including his insistence that ThyssenKrupp be exempted from the usual Defense Ministry tender process, raised concerns of a conflict of interest for Shimron.
Part of the agreement being pushed by Shimron would also have seen ThyssenKrupp construct a lucrative shipyard in Israel, where the company would maintain the new vessels.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.