An Israeli soldier from the navy loads a machine gun as he takes part in a drill practicing the defense of Israel's borders, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Ashdod, southern Israel November 14, 2017..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
With tensions high between the United States and Iran, the Israel Navy is prepared for any threat posed by Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon.
While Israel has remained officially mum on the war of words between Tehran and Washington, the IDF is well aware of the strategic threat a war between the two foes could pose to the Jewish state.
“In every war the sea will be involved,” a senior navy officer told The Jerusalem Post
. “If there is war tomorrow, the navy is ready. Our readiness is high at all times.”
The sea, he said, is “an open theater where there are no borders but which every enemy wants to win. We have to be superior. We protect our borders where there are no walls, but there are multiple enemies.”
As the navy increases in importance, especially in regard to protecting the country’s coastline from waterborne threats as well as providing protection to the country’s gas fields and shipping lanes, interest in the Naval Officer’s Course has grown.
Israel is highly dependent on the sea, with more than 90% of Israel’s imports arriving via the water route; and while the country’s navy is relatively small compared with other IDF corps, it has a significant amount of territory to protect following the expansion years ago of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from 40 nautical miles from shore to 150 nautical miles.
Senior naval officials have stated that Hezbollah has the ability to strike any spot in Israeli waters, including Israel’s natural gas drilling rigs that supply around 60% (and soon 75%) of Israel’s electricity.
“We live on an island – our economy, natural resources, security are that of an island, dependent on the sea,” the senior officer said, adding that the navy sees at sea the same sorts of threats that are seen on land.
The IDF’s Naval Officer’s Course – at almost two and a half years long – is one of the most intensive programs in the military. According to army figures, more than 2,000 candidates apply, with only 90 passing the initial tests; and only 5.5% of the candidates who apply graduating.
“We get diamonds here,” the senior navy officer said, adding that the course “turns cadets into commanders at sea” who are able to make critical decisions under pressure.
“The course takes the cadets out of their comfort zone,” the senior officer said in his office at the IDF’s naval base in Haifa. “Taking someone out of their comfort zone allows them to really know themselves – the good and the bad. They get to feel comfortable outside their comfort zone.”
All cadets go through rigorous training. In the first stage they undergo training to learn basic military skills as well as how to operate small sea vessels.
Following basic training, cadets are divided into four different areas of expertise: submarines, sailing, machinery or electronics, which will correspond to their post following graduation. During their advanced training, cadets also undergo a diving course to become a two-star diver able to reach depths of up to 30 meters.
In the next stage in the course, which lasts about eight months, the cadet undergoes practical and theoretical training in the designated position aboard the ship.
At the end of the whole course, each graduate receives the rank of lieutenant junior grade responsible for commanding naval vessels, as well as a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Haifa. Graduates are committed to 61 months of additional military service.
According to the senior navy officer, the academic part of the course gives cadets the ability to sharpen their critical thinking skills, something they will need to have as commanders.
On Sunday, a top military aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that all US military vessels in the Gulf are within range of Iranian missiles.
“Americans know all too well that their military force is within the range of Iranian missiles,” Yahya Rahim Safavi was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr news agency. “In the Persian Gulf, the whole American and foreign fleets are within the range of IRGC’s coast-to-sea missiles, which can reach to over 300 km.”
Safavi added that countries in the region should stop “thinking of Iran as the enemy and instead focus their attentions on their real enemies, namely the US and the Israeli regime.”
Iran has also warned in the past that they would block the Bab al-Mandab and Hormuz straits, key points for the 12% of Israel’s imports and exports that pass through them. Blocking them would strangle Israel.
So while the navy patrols and guard Israel’s coast, Israeli vessels are “all over the place, at every range,” the senior officer told the Post
“Join the navy, see the world,” he joked.
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