Israel has been known for its expertise in counter-insurgency and using hi-tech aircraft, like the F-35 jet, to confront enemies across the Middle East. Israel’s power was concentrated on land with its Israel Defense Forces investing in the best air defenses and new combat vehicles. Now that may be changing as Israel takes delivery of its new Sa’ar 6 corvette ships. These four new 2,000-ton vessels, which will be delivered from Germany over the next year, will give Israel new firepower at sea and the ability to protect its emerging gas fields off the coast.
In a recent statement the commander of the Israeli Navy, Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit: Said that “the mission of defending Israel’s exclusive economic zone and strategic assets at sea is the primary security mission of the Israeli Navy. These assets are essential to the operational continuity of the State of Israel, and having the ability to protect them holds critical importance.” The gas exclusive economic zone stretches over an area twice the size of Israel. Gas fields off the coast, near Lebanon and Gaza, both could be threatened by missiles. Israel confronted a surprise missile threat like this in 2006 when Hezbollah targeted the INS Hanit.
More recently reports indicated Hezbollah may have access to the Russian-made Yakhont missile or a variant. The group already has stockpiled some 150,000 missiles and rockets with Iran’s support. It is also developing precision-guided munitions. The threat of missiles at sea is well known, especially after the Houthis targeted ships off the coast of Yemen and after militants in Gaza struck an Egyptian ship in 2015. Anti-ship missiles can pose a major threat to modern navies. During the Falklands war in 1982 Argentinian Dassault-Breguet Super Etendard planes air-launched Exocet missiles that struck several British ships. During the Iran-Iraq war in 1987, the USS Stark was hit by a missile as well.
For this reason, Israel is putting to sea advanced ships with stealth technology and the latest in Israel’s Adir phased array radar, as well as numerous interceptors designed to protect it from missile threats. Many of the combat systems on the Sa’ar 6 ships will be new or recent designs and more than ninety percent will come from Israel’s defense companies. For instance, Rafael Advanced Defense systems reportedly supplies the C-Gem offboard active decoy, which defends against missile threats. Elbit Systems’ electronic warfare suite will be incorporated along with IAI’s Barak missiles and the sea version of Israel’s Iron Dome. Israel has made rapid advances in all this technology over the last several years, attempting to keep up with the threats emerging from Iran and Hezbollah Lebanon. For instance, Israel announced it had tested a new ship-to-ship missile in September. The missile represented a partnership between IAI and Israel’s research and development division within the Ministry of Defense. At the time Israel said, “the new missile system offers enhanced offensive precision capabilities, has longer range, possesses improved offensive flexibility and is better equipped to engage advanced threats.”
On November 11, the Israeli Navy will receive the new ship but it will still be in Kiel in Germany where it was laid down at Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. It will then sail to Israel. Israel’s navy says that “Upon the arrival of the corvette to Israel and after the operationalization and installation of battle systems, of which the vast majority are Israeli-designed systems, INS Magen will start its operational service in the Navy and will lead the defense of the Israeli economic exclusive zone and maritime strategic assets.”
The name of the ship and the program, “Magen,” comes from the Hebrew term for “shield.” This is because the ship is a shield for the gas platforms and off-shore infrastructure Israel is investing in. This will include a new gas pipeline to Cyprus and Greece, according to a recent agreement. It is also part of Israel’s increased role in the eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which was established this summer. Israel is increasingly a naval ally of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece. As tensions have increased between Turkey and Greece, Ankara has also laid claim to rights to the Mediterranean stretching to Libya, which puts it astride the potential pipeline. An Israeli ship was harassed by the Turkish navy in December 2019 as Ankara pushed its demands in the Mediterranean. The IDF has assessed that Turkey could be a future challenge and reports in British media have indicated the Mossad also sees Turkey as an emerging threat.
Eyal Avidov-Lt. Col. (Ret.)
Representative of the British News247WorldPress Agency in Israel
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