The Israeli Navy will soon receive a significant boost in its operational capabilities after it was announced that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) entered into an agreement to equip Israel’s newest and most powerful warships – the Sa’ar 6 – with Barak-8 missile defense systems. The Barak-8 is a sophisticated missile defense system that can intercept aircraft and is equally adept at countering incoming missile threats. The platform is currently in service with the Israeli Navy as well as the Indian Navy and air force. This development comes on the heels of an announcement by the Israeli Ministry of Defense that it awarded a contract to Israel’s Elbit Systems for the delivery of electronic warfare suites to the Israeli Navy.
The Sa’ar 6 class of corvettes includes a series of four new warships that will be used alongside other naval assets to patrol Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Sa’ar 6 is a formidable platform brimming with sophisticated weaponry and electronic surveillance equipment. It will be armed with 40 Barak-8 missiles as well as multi-round launchers equipped with C-Dome interceptors produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The C-Dome is a point defense missile system capable of intercepting short-range rockets and artillery and was based on the combat proven Iron Dome and Barak 1 designs. The Barak-8 and C-Dome missile defense systems will be able to provide the navy with a formidable multi-tiered defense capability against a variety of threats including aircraft, drones and sea-skimming cruise missiles like the Chinese C-802 and Russian Yakhont, both of which were supplied to Hezbollah via Iran.
The Sa’ar 6 will also be fitted with an Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun mount, which offers high rate of fire against air and surface targets. To address long-range surface threats, the Sa’ar 6 will deploy the combat-proven, sea skimming IAI Gabriel IV and Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Rounding out the weapons package will be two torpedo launchers for MK54 Torpedoes, and two 30mm Rafael Typhoon remote, stabilized weapons platforms. The warship will also accommodate helicopters like the AS565 Panther of the Maritime Helicopters Squadron. The Panther, which is also known in Israel as the Atalef, is a versatile platform that can be used for combat assault, anti-submarine warfare as well as search and rescue operations.
Up until 1973, the Israeli Naval Service (INS) was the Cinderella stepchild of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Its achievements in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1956 and 1967 were overshadowed by those of the air and ground forces. That mindset changed on October 6, 1973 when the Israeli navy was the only branch of the IDF not taken by surprise during the initial phases of the Arab onslaught. At the outset of the war, the Navy’s 12 Cherbourg and two Reshef class Fast Attack Craft (FAC) set sail for Syrian and Egyptian coasts and engaged with the Syrian and Egyptian navies, destroying the bulk of them. Having cleared the seas of enemy vessels, the INS attacked enemy coastal installations at will and harried the enemy until the last day of the war, which ended on October 24.
The INS’s role in defending Israel expanded as maritime threats against the Jewish State grew. The navy was tasked with patrolling Israel’s vast coastline, ensuring that maritime routes in the eastern Mediterranean, the Gulf of Eilat and the Red Sea remained unimpeded. The INS has also been tasked with interdiction operations ensuring that weapons destined for Iran-backed proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah never reach their intended destinations. Successful naval interceptions of ships like the Santorini, Karine A, Abu Hasan, Francop, Mavi Marmara, Victoria and KLOS C, prevented illegal contraband, including deadly weapons from reaching Islamist terrorist entities intent on causing mayhem.
Discoveries of vast gas reserves in Israel’s EEZ as well as the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran have further underscored the importance of the INS in securing Israel’s strategic interests. Israel’s formidable submarine fleet has assumed the role of second-strike nuclear deterrence. Some of Israel’s submarines utilize an advanced propulsion system called Air-Independent Propulsion, which uses fuel cell technology. This technology enables the submarines to remain extremely quiet and submerged without the need for resupply for up to 30 days, making them ideal platforms for covert as well as offensive operations. In addition, Israel’s subs are equipped with long-range Popeye Turbo cruise missiles. This highly accurate missile can be equipped with conventional and nuclear weapons. The stealthy characteristics of Israel’s sub fleet means that the vessels can approach the waters of any hostile nation virtually undetected, launch a missile salvo and quickly redeploy.
Iran, Hezbollah and Turkey, led by their unhinged leaders have tried to heighten tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where Israel, Greece and Cyprus have been cooperating in natural gas exploration, development and export. Large gas deposits situated in Israel’s EEZ have instantly transformed the Jewish State into a regional energy superpower. Sixty percent of Israel’s electricity needs are currently met by offshore gas deposits situated in the EEZ and lucrative export deals have already been signed with Jordan and Egypt. Israel is also looking to supply European countries currently reliant on Russian gas and seeking diversification of energy suppliers. A strong Israeli naval presence in the EEZ will serve as a deterrent for those foolhardy enough to contemplate embarking on reckless adventures.