Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems unveiled the “C-Dome” system at last week’s Euronaval conference in France. The system, which some are calling “Naval Iron Dome,” will enable sea vessels to knock down threats from the sky, including aircraft and missiles. The system will be particularly useful to Israel as it develops new platforms for its Tamar and Leviathan offshore natural gas fields.
Rafael executives say C-Dome can fire up to a missile per second, cover a 360-degree range, and work off of a warship’s own radar systems that can track multiple threats at any given time. It complements Israel’s other cutting-edge systems for marine defense, such as the upgraded Barak 8 battery for countering longer-range missiles, and multi-functional phased array radar systems for detecting incoming seaborne threats.
This cutting-edge technology will undoubtedly be attractive to other regional actors as they look for ways to protect their own offshore resources. This includes Qatar, which has become the world’s richest country per capita by cashing in on the natural gas and oil that lies off its shores.
Qatar, however, shares the world’s largest natural gas deposit with Iran. For Qatar, it’s called the North Field. For Iran, it’s called South Pars. Due to international sanctions against Iran and Tehran’s own mismanagement, Qatar has benefited from this wealth of resources while Iran has stumbled. Tensions have arisen over the years over the way Qatar harvests the 1,800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and some 50 billion barrels of natural gas condensates that lie beneath the waters between these two countries.
Doha’s defense calculus – not to mention billions of dollars in defense purchases – are typically focused on the threat from Iran, given Iran’s aggressive foreign policies that often put Sunni states in the crosshairs.
Israel also sees Iran as a regional threat. But don’t expect the Israelis to start selling C-Dome systems to Doha any time soon. Qatar is a top financial sponsor of the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, whose rocket barrages against Israel over the last decade first prompted Rafael to develop the land-based “Iron Dome” system. The Iron Dome system grabbed headlines this summer, as it knocked down a great number of Hamas rockets out of the sky before they could strike targets in Israel.
Qatar has not reached out to Israel to purchase C-Dome. But the system seems to be tailor-made for Qatar’s defense needs. The irony of this is not lost on the Israelis. And it’s a fair bet that the C-Dome system will be lost to Doha.
Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.