Israel's "Iron Dome" is heading to the seas, the maker of the rocket-blocking defence system says.
State-owned defence contractor Rafael wants to leverage the system's much-vaunted success in protecting Israeli civilians in this summer's Gaza war, hoping to draw navies as buyers for a new maritime version seen as especially useful in protecting national economic resources at sea like oil and gas platforms.
At last week's Euronaval conference near Paris, Rafael unveiled "C-Dome", which endeavours to help combat vessels counteract any threats from the air, including missiles, helicopters and tiny unmanned drone aircraft, which could increasingly become tools of combat and reconnaissance at sea just as they have on land in recent years.
Large naval vessels generally have radar-based interception systems to counter incoming threats. But Rafael executives say C-Dome offers innovations. It can fire up to a missile per second, cover a 360-degree range while piggybacking on a vessel's own radar systems with heat-tracking missiles that zero in on multiple incoming threats.
"C-dome offers something that is not out there [in the market] yet ... A small footprint and the capability to engage multiple targets and saturation threats. And it's based on the only system in the world that has more than 1,000 intercepts," said programme director Ari Sacher. "We can protect the ship from every direction at the same time. Most systems out there can't do that."
Iron Dome was a game-changer in this summer's war, ensuring a decisive edge for Israel that all but eliminated civilian casualties from Palestinian rocket fire. The Israeli military says that Iron Dome shot down 735 rockets in this summer's Gaza war, more than an 85 per cent success rate.
The land-based system quickly recognises the trajectory of incoming rockets and whether they are headed for population centres. Those are shot down, while others are allowed to fall in empty fields to spare the hefty cost of firing the interceptors.
C-Dome builds on that experience, shaping it for maritime needs and to defend smaller zones like ships.
At Rafael's display area at the Euronaval exhibit hall in suburban Le Bourget sat a grey, square metallic box about the size of a large coffee table with a black-tipped missile in one of four launch holes. Missiles would be housed underneath a ship's deck.
The small size makes C-Dome suitable for smaller vessels, such as corvettes and similar - many of which rely on less sophisticated intercept systems. C-Dome defends both the ships that carry it and other vessels or oil and gas platforms in its vicinity.
"This is opening a whole new market," Sacher said.