Israel’s navy successfully completed a complex training program last week led by a flotilla of missile boats, including both defensive and offensive attacks at sea, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced Wednesday.
In the first part of the training, a drone believed to be posing a threat similar to that of a missile on a gas rig was successfully intercepted by the Barak-8 naval air-defense system after it was identified by the ship's monitor.
In the second scenario that was practiced on the same day, a naval target simulating an enemy ship was attacked and successfully destroyed by a pair of naval cruise missiles launched from the Lahav and Yachid ships.
The ship in the first drill, a Sa’ar-4.5, was recently upgraded with new detection, observation and electronic warfare systems. One of the systems, the “Magal Esh” radar, greatly improves the detection and tracking capabilities of the ship by its ability to simultaneously scan a number of targets both at sea and in the air.
According to the IDF, the drill was the first time the ship was used in an operation in its upgraded configuration.
Col. Adar Gershon, the commander of the exercise, said that "The training contributed to the readiness and the increase of preparedness among the naval fighters. The missile squadrons are prepared and ready for all threats in the maritime sector."
The Israel Navy has a significant amount of territory to protect since the expansion of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
from 40 miles to 150 miles four years ago. The navy is also tasked with securing the natural gas drilling rigs that are in Israel's EEZ, clear targets for enemies on Israel’s northern border.
“The importance of the sea for Israel is very clear. Everything in the country comes via the sea. Israel can never be in the position where its waters are not protected,” one senior naval officer told The Jerusalem Post in a February interview.
“Eight years ago Israel’s EEZ was not significant, but we have had a game-changer since then,” he said, referring to the natural gas drilling rigs, which supply around 60% (and soon 75%) of Israel’s electricity.
“The fact that [there are] gas storage centers for our energy is both a positive and a negative,” the officer said, explaining that the rigs are clear targets for enemies on Israel’s northern border. Hezbollah is believed to have long-range missiles, including precision ballistic missiles received from Iran
, which can hit the rigs and ships inside the EEZ that are the responsibility of the navy.
“We believe that Hezbollah has the ability to strike any spot in our waters,” the senior naval officer stated.
While existing Sa’ar-5 and Sa’ar-4.5 ships are being upgraded with the integration of new radars and electronic warfare systems, Israel is set to receive new Dolphin-class submarines and new Sa’ar- 6 Corvettes in coming years which are set to be operational by 2021.
The Sa’ar-6 will have a crew of 70 sailors, a range of 2500 miles, and advanced capabilities able to deal with a wide range of threats including Iron Dome short range defense missile launchers and Barak-8 long-range surface-toair missile naval defense system.