Israel's Navy to receive first German-made Sa'ar 6 ship

One of four Sa'ar 6 ships currently being made for the IDF will be arriving in Israel in early December.

Israel Navy's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship (Courtesy: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The first of the new missile ships set to defend Israel’s shores and strategic sites will arrive in early December, after it was handed over to the Navy from the Thyssenkrup Marine shipyards in Germany.
The first of four new Sa'ar 6 ships, built in Germany by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in conjunction with the needs of the IDF, will be named "INS Magen," and is intended to protect the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in Israel's Mediterranean Sea. It is also intended to be capable of facing asymmetric battle methods facing the Navy from land, having been "tailor-made" for the threats facing the country.
Command over the ship was officially transferred on October 29 from Germany to Israel. In the first few weeks after the Navy receives the ships, they will perform numerous exercise cruises intended to allow the teams to practice on the new equipment. It will anchor in a number of ports along the way in order to replenish supplies.
The Sa'ar 6-class corvette is a class of warships initially ordered for Israel's Navy in 2015. Similar to the German Braunschweig-class corvette, the Sa'ar 6 can accommodate an array of Israeli sensors and missiles such as the Iron Dome defense system and a handful of Electronic Warfare (EW) devices by Israel's Elbit Systems.
The ship will arrive from Germany to Israel without these defense supplies and will be equipped upon arriving in the country. The IDF will need to make the ship fully operational within a year and a half.
Despite there being numerous underwater and otherwise difficult threats that are not on land, the threats on land are currently the most critical and therefore the Navy decided to go forth first and foremost with the Sa'ar 6.
Part of the need for the ship is due to threats to Israel's natural gas reservoirs along its border. Approximately 70% of Israel's electricity today is produced from natural gas and is expected to grow overtime, so its continued accessibility is crucial.
However, the gas rigs are a strategic target for the country's enemies. Assault ships such as the Sa'ar 6 are ideal for defense of these strategic spots.
Just north of the border, Hezbollah has an estimated arsenal of 130,000-150,000 missiles and rockets, the majority of them facing Israel’s civilian home front and strategic infrastructure.
One such missile, the advanced anti-ship Russian-made Yakhont (P-800 Oniks), represents a serious threat and can endanger both Israeli commercial vessels in Israeli shipping lanes and Israel’s gas rigs. Also at risk are the navy ships that operate in the area.
In May of last year, during a violent round that saw Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad launch 690 rockets and mortars toward Israel over the span of less than 48 hours, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz ordered the suspension of natural gas supplies from the Tamar field, over concerns that it could be targeted.
Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has made it clear that the gas rigs are targets for the group should another war with Israel break out, and according to Harel, “when Hezbollah has nothing left to lose, and they have their back against the wall, they will try to hit the Karish.”
The Sa'ar 6 has a handful of unique capabilities intended to handle such threats. It has numerous communications systems operated by the IDF in order to communicate with a handful of units and branches of the army, as well as an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system and radar-based steep-shot shooting interception. The goal of these is to defend the country's maritime borders from Tactical Missile Systems (TMS) which the country's enemies apparently possess.
"“It’s a larger vessel with advanced and hi-tech systems along with long-range missiles, air-to-air, surface, and sea-to-air missiles. The radar is bigger and more advanced than what is on the Sa’ar 5. With a further range, you can operate the Sa’ar 6 in open seas and in rough sea conditions," said Rear Admiral Eyal Harel, the head of IDF naval operations.
The Sa'ar 6 will be fitted with two naval Iron Dome short-range defense missile launchers with 20 Tamir missiles for each launcher, 32 vertical launch cells for the Barak-8 long-range surface-to-air missile naval defense system, and 16 anti-ship missiles.
The ships, in addition to having interception missile defense systems, will also have 16 anti-ship missiles, one 76-mm. Oto Melara Super Rapid main gun, two Typhoon 25-mm. remote weapon stations and two 324-mm. torpedo launchers for Mark 54 Lightweight Torpedoes. Each ship will also be outfitted with cyber and electronic warfare systems and ELTA’s EL/M-2248 MF-STAR active electronically scanned array radar capable of tracking both air and surface targets.
As the EEZ spans over a far larger space than the land of Israel as a whole, the Sa'ar 6 allows the Navy to dominate a larger space and provide a protective shield around Israel's borders. In addition, the ship is capable of staying out at sea for an extended period of time in order to provide a more extensive period of protection in the more vulnerable regions of the EEZ.
The ships will additionally be armed with the means for detecting aerial and field targets, allowing the Sa'ar 6 to face a wide range of threats. It can also carry a Sea-Hawk helicopter.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.