Navy mulls building ships locally

Plan comes as American ship costs soar; alternative options awaiting IDF General Staff approval.

meko 200 boat 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
meko 200 boat 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Due to rising production costs, the Israel Navy is shelving a long-held plan to purchase the Lockheed Martin-built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in favor of a German-designed and Israeli-built corvette. The Navy had been eying the LCS for several years. In 2008, it submitted a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the Pentagon to ascertain the price of the ship after a $5 million feasibility study to see whether the ship could meet Israeli needs and could be integrated with Israeli-manufactured systems. A top Navy officer told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the LCS's rising cost had forced the Navy to look into alternative options for the two missile ships it had received a budget to procure under the IDF's current multi-year plan. The price tag on the LCS jumped from $220 million to close to $400 million, and according to Navy estimates, could currently be as high as $600 million each. While the plan has not yet been approved by the General Staff, the Navy is working on another concept: having the 2,000-ton ship designed by the German company Blohm and Voss and built at the Israel Shipyards in Haifa. Israel is currently having two Dolphin-class submarines built in Germany. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which is being considered as the lead integrator for the project, already builds some of the Navy's small vessels, such as the Dvora-class fast attack patrol boat. However, this would however be the first time an Israeli shipyard built larger-scale missile ships. Blohm and Voss are the manufacturers of the Meko family of warships, which include small corvettes and large frigates. The design would be similar to the existing Israeli Sa'ar-5 class ship but would be slightly larger to enable it to carry the massive Elta-made Adir radar, which is capable of providing an extensive over-the-horizon radar view. "The design is based on an existing ship model," the officer said. "The challenge will be to make a relatively small ship large enough to carry everything we need, including the radar system." The ship will be capable of carrying Special Forces and larger infantry units as well as mid-size vehicles alongside at least one helicopter. The ship will also be equipped with the anti-ship Harpoon Missile as well the Barak anti-missile defense system. The new proposal will be brought in the coming months to IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for approval. Once approved, Navy sources said it would take close to a decade to complete the construction of the two ships.