Israel Navy missile ship patrols near Tamar gas field.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Construction of Israel’s four newest warships that will be used to defend the country’s natural gas fields and territorial waters has begun in Germany.
“The Sa’ar-6 ships are one of the main pillars in the naval defensive wall that the IDF has,” said V.-Adm. Eli Sharvit, commander of the Israel Navy.
“In recent year the importance of maritime supremacy has been reinforced with the understanding that it constitutes a pillar of the security of the State of Israel,” he said.
The first of the Sa’ar-6 class corvettes, which are being built in the German port of Kiel, is set to arrive in November 2019, with the final one arriving in February 2021.
All four are expected be fully operational by the following year.
The four-vessel squadron with be led by an officer with the rank of commander.
In addition to interception missile defense systems such as the naval Iron Dome and the Barak-8 long-range surface-to-air missile naval defense system, each state-ofart ship will be outfitted with precise offensive missiles as well as cyber and electronic warfare systems that will be installed once in Israel.
The 90-meter-long ships will carry crews of 70 sailors who will be assisted by unmanned aerial vehicles and naval helicopters.
They will have a maximum speed of 24 knots (44.5 kph) with a range of 2,500 nautical miles (4,630 km.).
“The bread and butter of the Sa’ar-6 are its defense and offensive capabilities,” said senior naval officer. “I wish we could have this ship on our waters, right now.”
More than 90% of Israel’s imports arrive by sea, and while the navy is small compared to other IDF service arms, it has to protect some 44,000 sq.km. of sea, almost double the size of Israel.
The new ships will be used to defend Israel’s natural gas drilling rigs, which supply around 60% (and soon 75%) of the nation’s electricity.
According to the senior naval officer, one missile boat patrols Israel’s territorial waters, but during time of war, the navy will place one ship near each rig, which are clear targets for Hezbollah.
“We believe that Hezbollah has the ability to strike any spot in our waters,” the officer said, explaining that while the Lebanese group does not have any naval capability, it is believed to have long-range missiles, including precision ballistic missiles received from Iran, which can hit the rigs and ships inside Israel’s exclusive economic zone.
“Hezbollah radiates naval power even without having any ships or submarines,” he said. “The Iranian presence is a game-changer.”
Tensions with Lebanon have risen in recent days, and on Tuesday, Hezbollah published flyers and released a short video threatening the Jewish state over Lebanon’s plans to explore for offshore oil and gas in the Block-9 field that is disputed waters.
“Whoever harms gas and oil sites in Lebanese economic waters, their own sites will be harmed, and they know Lebanon is fully capable of doing so,” read one flyer posted on social media.
In an interview with Ynet news, National Infrastructure Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Israel hopes to settle the dispute diplomatically but is ready to defend its territorial waters.
Hezbollah, he said, “should not threaten, and definitely not invade, our territorial waters. If they attack us, our response will be fast and more devastating than in the past.
Israel is the strongest nation in the region and we will defend our sea territory and the gas drilling rigs.”