The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is in talks to procure a containerised variant of Rafael’s C-Dome in an effort to increase the firepower of its future Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV).
Naval News understands that discussions to procure the system are ongoing as Australia works to fulfil what has been described as an ‘urgent’ operational requirement.
Rafael unveiled the new version of C-Dome during IMDEX 2023, describing it as a response to emerging market demands. At its most basic the system consists of a container-mounted radar and Combat Management System (CMS) paired with modular packs that contain ten C-Dome interceptors each.
In this configuration, a Rafael official said, all that would be required from the host ship is power and crew. Naval News understands that the two modules could be mounted or dismounted in as little as four hours. If a client chooses to more seamlessly integrate the system aboard their chosen hull, such as linking the ship’s own radar and CMS to C-Dome, it could be done at the expense of timeline and cost.
During IMDEX the system was depicted on the flight deck of a generic NVL Group Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV). Customers of the type include Australia (Arafura), Brunei (Darussalam) and Bulgaria (MMPV). Rafael declined to go into much detail regarding specific customers but it did confirm that talks are ongoing with Australia. Naval News understands that these discussions have been impacted by the forthcoming surface combatant review.
Australia does not have a public requirement for air-defence systems compatible with its Arafura class OPV. However, Australia’s new Defence Strategic Review (DSR) has focused efforts to rapidly procure and upgrade ADF capabilities including the OPVs. Public plans have focused on the possibility of enhancing their offensive capabilities, via fitting the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), rather than improving their lacklustre defensive capabilities. The possibility of C-Dome integration aboard turns that paradigm on its head. Critically, according to Rafael’s Ran Tavor, fit-out could be done incredibly quickly.
“The delivery time is very fast. Integration is very simple and the capabilities are identical to the standard C-Dome”Ran Tavor – Vice President Naval Combat Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
The envisioned role of a C-Dome armed Arafura is not entirely clear as the ships are not fast enough to keep up with major surface combatants and provide additional magazine depth. This suggests a concept of operations focused on escorting slower vessels that lack organic air defence, thereby freeing up ‘higher-end’ assets for more pressing missions. The modularity inherent in this suggests that would only be one of many missions conducted by the OPVs as part of a renewed surface fleet .
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