The Israel Navy is gearing-up for possible terror attacks on natural gas installations at sea.
An exercise conducted last month by naval commandos focused on the scenario of militants taking control of a drilling rig after infiltrating with submersible craft and taking the crew of the rig hostage.
The commandos involved in the exercise had to make their way to the rig, climb up and reestablish control.
One of the limitations they faced was the use of live fire on a rig dedicated to drilling for inflammable gas.
“The other side is not a terrorist in a keffiyeh,” said one of the navy officers involved in the exercise. “It is someone who understands that what’s involved is an Israeli strategic asset.”
Until the 2019 arrival of German ships that are being specially built to defend the gas installations, the IDF is conducting sea patrols in the region of the drilling platforms. From time to time, missile boats are stationed permanently at a rig.
One of the chief concerns of the navy is the possibility of missiles – such as the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile – being fired at drilling rigs from the shore. Such a missile could cause significant structural damage to a rig.
But the officer cautioned that even a hit by a simpler rocket on a rig or close by could cause damage.
Rockets were fired in the direction of Ashdod Port during last year’s Defensive Shield operation. According to the officer, they fell kilometers from their targets and posed no danger.
As a result, the navy has decided to upgrade the Barak surface-to-air missiles on Israel’s missile boats to enable them to defend against rockets fired at the rigs.
In the future, the IDF will receive the new Barak 8 missile that is capable of downing rockets at a range of some 70 kilometers. The Barak 8 is still in testing, with the defense establishment hoping to conduct interception tests in the next few months. The Barak 8’s radar is currently installed on the INS Lahav corvette, providing enhanced identification capabilities of sea craft and air craft.
According to a government decision from 2013, the IDF and navy are responsible for the territorial defense of the drilling rigs. Local security units – most of them veterans of IDF commando units – are stationed on the rigs themselves.
The IDF has also installed radar on the rigs and the navy is responsible for the professional guidance of the security teams.
According to another officer, the main concerns of drilling rigs in other parts of the world are takeovers by criminal elements and pirates.