The Israeli Navy Wednesday, Sept. 2, staged a defensive exercise, which centered on the elite Shayetet 13 unit silently and smoothly driving off the terrorists who had “captured the Yam Tethys Mediterranean gas field, off the coast of the southern Israeli port of Ashkelon. This demonstration and the weapons used exposed but a small part of the IDF’s scope and capabilities. The key, say our military experts, is intelligence – strategic and tactical – for early warning of enemy plans of attack and its actions in real time – whether by sabotage or long-range missile or drone.
Navy commander Brig. Ram Rotberg, leading a tour of military correspondents, outlined the potential threats addressed by the latest defense doctrines. They include the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile which is in hands of Hizballah and the Syrian army, with a range of 300 km, a speed of 2 mach and the ability to cruise as low as ten meters, way under most radar systems, with a payload of 300 kg of explosives.
Another is the Iranian Ababil drone, believed to have been upgraded with navigation capabilities and the ability to carry tens of kilos of explosives. Iran is also ceaselessly developing new missiles and rockets, some of which are no doubt being supplied to the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas.
The counter-measures and weapons unveiled in the Navy drill Wednesday were as follows:
1. The Barak 8 multi-purpose seaborne missile defense system (sea-to-sea, sea-to-air, sea-to-coast and sea-to-missile) has been upgraded to offer the gas rig the same sort of protection as Iron Dome provides on land. It is designed to intercept surface to sea missiles, ballistic missiles with GPS guidance systems and primitive rockets. It is 4.5 meters long, weighs 275 kg, has a speed of two mach, and effective range of around 100 km and carries a 75 kg payload of explosives.
Last year, a Barak 8 was reported to have intercepted a Russian Yakhont during a war game.
2. A system of sensors installed on and below the sea’s surface to detect terrorists attempting to climb onto the gas rigs, and an active-passive obstacle field around the installation.
3. UAV’s and spy balloons will be on 24/7 patrol over the gas rigs.
4. Additional missile systems are available or in the works for supplementing the current defenses. They include Rafael’s Spyder surface-to-air missiles and David’s Sling.