Sa’ar 6: The new backbone of Israel Navy

The new corvette was built with asymmetric warfare in mind as missile ships must contend with threats from the shore.

The IDF's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The IDF's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The Israel Navy is gearing up to receive its next generation of missile ships, the Sa’ar 6-class corvette, which for the coming decades will defend the country’s strategic maritime assets from enemies such as Hezbollah.
On Wednesday, the Israel Navy formally received the INS Magen, hoisting the Israeli flag on the ship during a ceremony held at the Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems shipyard in Kiel, Germany, and attended by Navy commander V.-Adm. Eli Sharvit and other senior officials.
The INS Magen along with the other new vessels, Sharvit said at the ceremony, “are excellent, precise, optimal and versatile ships” that will protect Israel’s strategic assets in its economic waters.
They “are armed with the best defensive and offensive combat systems that are at the forefront of world military technology,” Sharvit added.
Built in Kiel, Germany, by Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, the first of the six ships, the INS Magen, is expected to reach Israel’s shores by early December and will become operational in the next year or two. Three others, INS Oz, INS Atzma’ut and INS Nitzahon, will follow, with the last expected to arrive by the end of 2021.
The Israel Navy is comprised of patrol units, submarines (Shayetet 7), special naval forces (Shayetet 13) and missile boats (Shayetet 3). The new ships, which will give the navy a total of 15 missile ships together with the aging Sa’ar 5-class missile ships that are close to 30 years old, will be the backbone of the fleet.
Although the navy is relatively small compared to other IDF corps, it is tasked with protecting Israel’s largest strategic depth, some 44,000 sq.km. of sea area, both below and above the surface, almost double Israel’s land mass. It also guards strategic infrastructure such as the natural gas rigs, protects commercial shipping lanes, which bring in 98% of Israel’s imports, and it takes part in missions far from the country’s shores.
To Israel’s north, Hezbollah has stockpiled an estimated arsenal of 130,000-150,000 missiles and rockets which are intended to strike at the civilian home front and at strategic infrastructure such as the gas production rigs and at naval and commercial vessels in Israeli shipping lanes.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has made clear that the gas rigs are targets for the group should another war break out, but with the arrival of the new warships, fitted with new advanced technology, the navy aims to thwart those threats.
Unlike the Sa’ar 5-class ships which were not designed to deal with incoming aerial threats, the Sa’ar 6 was built to confront exactly those situations. The Sa’ar 6 motto, The Jerusalem Post was told, is “zero hits.”
The IDF's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship. (Photo credit: The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit)The IDF's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship. (Photo credit: The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit)
Although the military does not foresee an imminent war with Hezbollah, the navy doesn’t distinguish between preserving the security of the country and preparing for war, and it constantly prepares in exercises.
The Sa’ar 6 vessels are part of the IDF’s new multidimensional warfare strategy that is a key part of the IDF’s Momentum multiyear plan to quickly and efficiently defeat the enemy. Under the plan, all branches of the military will be interconnected and will work together to increase the number of enemy targets destroyed – mostly by the air force – and aid ground forces on the front lines.
Should a war break out, at least two Sa’ar 6 ships will be deployed to protect the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and gas rigs, while the rest of the fleet would assist ground forces by bombarding enemy troops and weapons systems that could target both the home front and gas rigs, while simultaneously destroying any aerial targets fired toward maritime assets and naval vessels.

The IDF's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship. (Photo credit: The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit)The IDF's new Sa'ar 6-class corvette warship. (Photo credit: The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit)

In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah struck the INS Hanit Sa’ar 5-class corvette with a Chinese-made C-802 anti-ship missile, and four sailors were killed. It was a devastating shock for the defense establishment and is still deeply ingrained in the navy’s memory.
That attack made the navy realize that the enemy was fighting from the shore and it brought about a change in concept.
The Sa’ar 6 was built with this new thinking in mind, knowing that the enemy fights asymmetrically and that the missile ships can deal with threats from the shore and be interconnected with both ground and air forces to detect and destroy threats.
The new 90-meter-long, 2,000-ton ships have a maximum speed of 24 knots with a range of 2,500 nautical miles. Though not much longer than the Sa’ar 5, they have been built to better handle rough seas and can stay out for longer.
They will be covered in close to 300 static radar arrays that can detect incoming aerial threats that can then be shot down by either the two Iron Dome (Naval Dome) missile interceptors for rockets, or two Barak-8 batteries to shoot down incoming cruise and ballistic missiles.
In addition to interception missile defense systems, the ships 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 MK54 lightweight torpedoes.
The amount of firepower on the ship is phenomenal for its size.
Each 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.
And for the first time, the ships will be able to house female crew members, who will make up 25% of the ship’s company. They will be assisted by unmanned aerial vehicles and an upgraded landing pad for Israel’s newest naval helicopters.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview on board the INS Lahav, a Sa’ar 5 corvette, during a patrol to the Leviathan gas rig, R.-Adm. Eyal Harel, the head of IDF Naval Operations, said that the new ships have been custom-made for Israel’s needs.
“We are securing the entire EEZ, and so with all the threats in this region, we need the new ships with all their advanced weapons systems,” he said. “We have to be dynamic in protecting our assets.”
“It’s just better, it’s newer, it’s faster, it’s more complicated, but it’s tailor-made for this mission.”