May 18, 2016 / 4:41 PM / a year ago

Israel to use new sea-borne missile defense to guard gas fields

A screen-shot taken from Israel Defence Forces (IDF) handout video footage received on May 18, 2016, shows a test-firing of a version of Israel's Iron Dome missile interceptor that can be fired from the deck of a cruising navy ship, in Israel's territorial waters. Courtesy of IDF Spokesperson Unit/Handout via REUTERS

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s military said on Wednesday it had developed a version of its Iron Dome missile interceptor system that can be fired from the deck of a cruising navy ship to protect its offshore gas platforms.

The augmented defense system passed a live test two weeks ago when it shot down several short-range ballistic missiles from a moving boat, said Colonel Ariel Shir, the navy’s head of operational systems.

Israel has boosted its naval defenses over the past decade after the discovery of sizeable natural gas deposits off its Mediterranean coast.

While the biggest fields are far from shore, the gas flows to platforms in shallower waters that can be seen from the southern Israeli coast, putting them in range of the kinds of rockets fired by militants in the Gaza Strip.

Iron Dome batteries have proven capable of shooting down around 90 percent of Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza, according to Israel and the United States, which has helped bankroll the system.

Until now Iron Dome had been a static system that was only fired from land. It has needed a series of software and algorithm adjustments to help it meet the navy’s requirements.

The latest test proved that the “the Iron Dome of the sea” is operational, Shir said, and it will improve the navy’s “capability to protect Israel’s strategic assets at sea against short-range ballistic rockets.”

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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