Meet C-Dome: Israel’s Maritime Iron Dome

“Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flieth by day.” (Psalm 91:5)

On the heels of Iron Dome’s successful deployment during Operation Protective Edge, the government-owned defense contractor responsible for the system, Rafael, unveiled its new project: C-Dome. Building on the technology behind Iron Dome, C-Dome offers 360-degree protection in a compact installation, specifically geared towards small ships and maritime facilities.

C-Dome was presented at last week’s Euronaval Conference near Paris, France. According to a report by the Associated Press, it is designed to help counteract any threats from the air, including missiles, helicopters and tiny unmanned drone aircraft.  Unlike current systems in place in larger vessels, the new C-Dome will be able to fire up to a missile per second and cover a 360-degree range with heat-tracking missiles that zero in on multiple incoming threats at a time, all using the ship’s existing radar systems.

“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 program director Ari Sacher. “We can protect the ship from every direction at the same time. Most systems out there can’t do that.”

C-Dome’s compact construction will allow it to be installed in smaller ships, where it can protect not only its host vessel, but other other ships or oil or gas installations nearby, as well. Today, small ships have far less sophisticated defense options.

[ubm_premium banners=42 count=1]

“The most strategic sites for the future right now will be gas platforms and oil platforms,” said one high-ranking Rafael employee at the conference, who gave only his first name. Reserve Israeli Navy Capt. “Meir” is a Rafael business development director for naval warfare systems. “You have to secure them from missiles; Missiles that will be from terror organizations, from mother boats, from enemy countries, from drones — or any other aerial threat.”

C-Dome (Photo: Rafael)
C-Dome (Photo: Rafael)

C-Dome’s origins are its biggest selling point. During Operation Protective Edge, the Iron Dome system had an over 85 percent success rate at taking down targeted projectiles.  The system is designed to rapidly calculate a projectile’s trajectory, and only fires if the target is headed towards a sensitive location, such as a populated area.

Projectiles destined for empty spaces are allowed to fall, thus saving millions of dollars in unnecessary deployments. Being modeled on the Iron Dome, and sharing a “commonality at more than 99.5 percent”, C-Dome comes with “a proven track record”, Sacher points out.

Citing reasons of both security and competition, Rafael representatives would not give specifics about how many rockets the C-Dome could carry, saying only that it would depend on clients’ requests. According to Sacher, C-Dome’s closest competitors would be MBDA’s short-range air defense system VL Mica and the Rolling Airframe Missile system of Raytheon.