Heil Ha Yam - The Israeli Navy
The Israeli navy (Heyl Ha 'Yam) was a very early component of the armed forces (Hagana) but not a priority: The threat of encirclement by the Arab countries seemed much more obvious after the creation of the state of Israel. But the role of this first hastily formed flotilla based in Haifa, the large ex-Palestinian harbour, and landing place of so many settlers in the 1940s and 1950s, was to ensure the respect of territorial waters. It was the early core of a navy which is now considered one of the very best in the region.
The ex-British Destroyer Eilat in the 1960s.
Introduction: From diaspora to the creation of the state of Israel
After a long period of exile (the diaspora), the Jews gradually returned to their historic lands, described by the Bible as "Palestine", but which in the meantime was inhabited and cultivated by local Muslim populations. The inevitable happened, a "return" that others see as an occupation. The problem could have been simple if there was no possibility at first sight to properly coexist an Israeli state, endowed with the best lands in the west, and shreds of scattered territories for a "Muslim Palestine" pushed towards the desert and the Jordanian border. Palestine was for a long time a province of the Ottoman Empire. The latter collapsed ater WW1 and the allies received a "mandate" under the terms of the Picot-Sykes agreement. Old territories helf by the Ottoman Turks according to their influence, such as Syria and Lebanon were allocated to the French, while Palestine and a large portion of territory including current Jordan were attributed to British supervision.
The latter welcomed waves of persecuted Eastern European Jews in the interwar, and immigration that began already in 1880 with early settlers coming to develop desolate lands. This rebirth of the area west of the Jordan was accompanied by a disappearance of malaria and the drying up of marshes, the creation of many agricultural properties which attracted a large Arab labor force. In 1923, however, Great Britain decided to separate Palestine into two districts of unequal importance (using Jordan border river as a frontier).
Israeli Frigates in Venice, 1954.
Territories to the east became trans-Jordan, populated by Muslims, and Western Palestine was inhabited mainly by Jews. A movement of Arab nationalists began to take hold and extremism increased. Attacks to drive Jews west of the Jordan River multiplied. They culminated in the Hebron massacres of 1929 and the "great Arab revolt" in 1936-39, which the British failed to contain. The British military presence, however, was firmly maintained in the face of growing opposition from the Jews themselves, in order to keep hold of oil wells recently discovered in Trans-Jordan. Jewish nationalists in turn multiplied attacks in order to obtain independence and the constitution of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Crew's review of INS Leviathan in 1967, after commission in portsmouth. Most officers were veterans of the Royal Navy in WW2.
From 1939, however, attention was focused in Europe. The whole continent quickly passed under the Nazi boot and with it, industrial-scale persecution against Jews over the continent, culminating in the Holocaust. After the fall of the Third Reich and the liberation of concentration camps, surviving Jews had only one obsession: Leaving Europe, part of which fell into the Soviet orbit, to take refuge either in the United States or in the "promised land" then in the process of legalization, Israel. "Palestine" was however still administered by British authorities when the first massive waves of immigrants arrived from Europe (Ashkenazim).
The British suffered increasingly bold attacks from the Irgun, led by its charismatic leader Menachem Begin, less to force the British to withdraw and recognize the sovereignty of an Israeli state, than pressed to face more effectively Arab attacks. In 1947 it was finally done. The United Nations in resolution 181 authorized the creation of the state of Israel, but also that of three independent territories, mostly populated by Arabs. For their part, the recently independent Arab nations claimed Palestine as a soverign state and milited for the expulsion of Jews and the extension of Jordan to the coast. The roots of evil were planted for many more wars and a state that was literally built to survive. The Israeli navy was therefore born in the furnace of wartime.
Creation of the Israeli Navy
IDF Naval review of 1959 in Haifa.
The state of Israel's early existence was punctuated by several wars waged by its neighbors: the 1948, 1956, 1967, 1968, and 1973 wars, and Lebanon conflict in the 1980s. Currently IDF possesses certainly one the most modern and capable fleet in the Middle East, but not the largest in terms of raw tonnage, far from it. This coastal force based in Haifa and Ashdod, is also capable of operating in the Red Sea, from Eilat. The navy involvement in various operations is described in the next chapter. This embryonic force formed in 1948 was then composed of a single ex-US coastguard, the USS Northland
, which became Eilat. 350 men were on board, most, veterans of the Second World War aboard Royal Navy ships. Some motors torpedo boats inherited from the local Royal Navy also added to this core. Frogmen signed the destruction in 1948 of the Egyptian warship El Amir Farouk
off Gaza. In 1956, however, the Israeli navy became significantly larger with the acquisition of two Z class ships in 1955, relatively recent (10 years), three "River" class frigates and two "Flower" class corvettes in 1950 plus an escort destroyer of the "Hunt" class in 1956. But the latter was acquired during the war of 1956 (the campaign of Sinai), while the two newly acquired destroyers allowed to capture in a spectacular way the Egyptian frigate Ibrahim el Awal
Post-1956 dramatic extension of the fleet
After this campaign, Israel also acquired the first two of modernized English submersibles of the S type (Tanin class
) in 1958, and three of the T type (Leviathan class
) in 1967-68, operational at the time of the Six Day War. After this conflict, the Israeli Navy in the seventies acquired many other well-adapted ships: Large missile fast attack crafts of the "SAAR" type, German designed (Lürssen) but built in France, 12 SAAR-1s in 1967-69, then the 11 SAAR-4 (or Reshef
) in 1973-78, and finally the 5 SAAR-4.5 which were by tonnage and capabilities quasi-corvettes, carrying an helicopter in 1980 and 1990. The spearhead of the current Israeli fleet (post-cold war) consists of the ultra-modern Eilat-class
stealth corvettes built in the USA. Israel has also gradually acquired amphibious ships over time: First the three LST Etzion Geber
in 1965, then the three LCT of the Ashdod class
in 1967, and finally the large Bat Sheva
in 1968, ex-South African ship, which added and replaced the existing fleet of ww2-era landing ships and crafts of the LCT, LCI, LCM, or LCM(6) and even a former WW2 German MFP type.
The IDF Navy is a small, but powerful forcen, spread among three widely separated operationsal bases at Haifa (the main base), while the majority of units and certainly the most modern missile boats are situated at Ashdod (established May 1967) and the Red Sea port of Eilat, while the taken Sharm el Sheikh was returned to Egypt m April 1982. Iarael has a vital strategic location within the boundary of two important seas, the Mediterranenean and the Red Sea. She is surrounded by largely hostile neighbours and faces continuing intirnal disruption coming from the unresolved Palestinian problem. The Naval peace treaty signed with Egypt at Camp David, USA. was of great importance to Israel's industrial and military needs, among other things making it possible for more ships to safely pass through the Suez canal, the Mediterranean to the Red Sea in two to three days instead of sailing around Africa.
THE ARAB-ISRAELI WARS 1948-82
The navy has ahway been the Cinderella nf the Taraeh Defence Forces. In the 1948 49 War of Indipendence it consisted of about 350kailors with RN andi illegal inmigrant bot experience. Their flagship was the 2150k ex LS Coast Guard nutter Northland, renamed Elath. They also had a few motor boats and naval frogmen, who sank the Egyptian sloop Amir Farouk off Gaza. In 1956, the spectacular capture of the Egyptian frigate Ibrahim al Arwal off Haifa was done by itw twop newly acquired destroyers but well helped by the Israeli air force, and the same Israeli destroyers started shore bembardment of Rafah the next day. Howerer it was no belp to the Army. Before the 1967 Six Day War, the navy had added submarines and eight home-built landing craft to the inventory plus three destroyers, eight MTB and an ASW ship, but Israel's lightning victory left the
fleet little to do. Three torpedo fast attack craft reached Sharm el Sheik from Eilat to find the Egyptian blockade had evaded. Naval frogmen also performd well in the port of Alexandria and Port Said, achieving a psychological boost. The 1967-70 war of attrition gave more scope to the navy, showing their vulnerabiliry to modem missiles as dramatically shown by the sinking of Eilat.
IDF Intel was less surprised than most by the 1973 war and events went to vindicate the fleet's new emphasis on eletronic warfare and missiles. 13 FACs defeated 27 arab ones, Komar and osa fitted with longer range Styx missiles. 200 miles off Latakia by night this unique naval battle between FACs when five Israeli units fought the first missile versus missile surtace ation in naval history. They evaded two Styx salvoes of six missiles each, shooting down one with 76mm gun while a Gabriel salvo hit all three Syrin ships. Twe blew up and the third was finished off with 40mm fire. Twe nights later, six Israelli FACs dodged four Styx. Twelve missiles were launched. They destroyed three out of four Egyptian Osa boats off Dumieta, the thirt vessel again being sunk by gunfire. Another twenty-eight Arab missiles, fired in later actions all missed. The Gabriel Mk I missile was shown 85% effective. The relatively protracted Yom Kappur operations allowed the navy to come into its own.
Constant sorties tied down an armoured frigate on the Syrian coast. The Egyptians, whose Suez Canal crossing stunned the world, failed entirely off Sinai and in the Gulf of Suez, in one typical action, five patrol boats sank nineteen armed fishing boats in the Ras Ghareb unchorage. For a loss of three killed and twenty four wounded, the navy sank nineteen Anab regular warhips. In the course of the war, coastal defence tactics were used and fast attack craft instead of escort shps wore employed. The enemy was generally attacked in his own bases, rarely on the open sea. The Israeli deployed their FACs together with helicopters providing mid-flight guidancs for the missides and decoys for enemy's own. Such deployment was a novely at the time, and gave excellent results. IDF naval operatione in the 1980s showed a daring only made possible by total air supremacy. In June 1981, FACs hit the PFLF HQ Tripoli in Letari.
A year later the navy made the maximum effort in amphibious and gunfire support of the army coastal thrust that reached Beirut within four days. The Palestinian military evacuation to Cyprus was effectively regulated by Israel's warships patrolling off the Lebanese capital. Already in possession of the best trained and equipped fast attack craft group in the Mediterranean, Israel formed a second such unit for deployment on the Red Sea during the 1980s. The rapid build-up of the Libyan Navy prompted the Isracli Navy to order a new type of fast attack corvette with good seakeeping qualities and designed purely for attack. In her present economic situation Israel cannot afford to build a defensive navy and so her requirements are for attack craft, such as missie armed hydrofoils and small guided-missile patrol boats. To counter infiltration by PLO terrorist groups along the 150-mile coastline there are many coastal radar surveillance stations, and patrols by Dabur' and 'Yatush' class craft. These radars and patrols also provide early warning of low-level aerial attacks coming in over the sea.
Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) is also involved in the development and production of military equipment for the navy. There are even some small warships built by IAI such as fast attack craft of the "Dabur' or Dvora' (missile) classes. During the 1980s the Israeli Navy commissioned only a small number of new warships such as 'Saar 4.5' class boats and three missile hydrofoils of the US Flagstaff 2' class. However, during this time ambitious submarine and corvette plans both received the go-ahead. Two new ocean-going diesel-electric submarines of the "Dolphin' class were ordered while three 'Eilat' class corvettes of very advanced design are being built in the USA. These ships, called by their builders 'pocket cruisers', will extend Israel's maritime reach significantly. There are also plans to acquire six fast attack craft (gun) and two LCTS.
The navy's high quality personel is its greatest asset, as it was understood also in the context of tanks, leading to the development of the Merkava. There is an israeli electronics school training boys for the two years first round starting at sixteen and leading to national service afterwards. More than 3500 conscripts on 6600 sailors, plus senior officers and petty officers complete the yearly draft for the Navy. The service is over a three year period also, so reservists got a lot of experience.
Naval commando and frogman training is done by 750 men, women take on many shore jobs and there are about 4000 reserves who do up to up to sixty days annual training. Command is vested in a rear-admiral or commodore. In 1995, total naval personal ammounted to 7,000 comprsing also 700 officers, over three years of service.
Missiles of the IDFN
Gabriel missile just out, fired
Gabriel launch canister
SAAR 4 firing
The IAI Gabriel was a 3.35-3.78 m long 430-560 kgs missile with a mimimal flight altitude of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in), using a guidance with Semi-Active Radar for the two early Marks and Active Radar on the three later Marks. It carried a waread from 100 kg (220 lb) to 150 kg and eventually 240 kg (530 lb) from 20 on the early mark to 6–36 km (3.7–22.4 mi), 36 km (22 mi), 60 km (37 mi), 200 km (120 mi) on the Mark IV and for the Mark V/Blue Spear/Sea Serpent up to 400 km (250 mi).
The 1973 war boosted its sales internationally. It was (or still is) used by Azerbaijan, Chile, Ecuador, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, Kenya, Mexico, Sri Lanka, India, Argentina, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand and Brazil.
Surface-to-surface Gabriel type guided missiles designed and produced in Israel are well-known internationally. There are two versions, Mk I and Mk 2, and the much improved Gabriel Mk 3 entering service in 1995. Gabriel Mk I carried out trials in the late 1950s and during the early 1960s it was decided to adopt the concept of the missile armed fast attack crafft as the main unit for future deployment with the Israeli Navy. The Israeli Navy's concept of the missile gun armed FPB to replace the destroyer and frigate was vindicated by the success of the Gabriel Mk 1 in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, despite its disadvantages such as limited range (20km) due to the solid fuel rocket motor and target handling (resulting from the semi-active homing system which permits only one target to be selected for engagement). During the early 1970s the Gabriel Mk
to carry increased fuel of a more modern type, which extended its range to 36km. The range was in fact greater than 36km but the effective range was limited by the extent of coverage of the search and fire control radars then operational. The Gabriel Mk 2 still has the semi-active homing missile, IAI has therefore developed the Gabriel Mk 3 missile, which uses a fully active homing head, enabling the operator to fire the missile and forget it, In fact the Mk 3 missile can operate in three modes: fire and forget (possible to engage four targets simultaneously); fire and update - the missile's computer is updated while in flight to assimilate a target's changing parameters, which enables the homing seeker in the head to be activated at the latest possible moment to overcome ECM; and fire and control incorporates the capability of the Mk 1 and Mk 2 missiles to control the missile throughout the whole of its flight and thus to concentrate on one target alone.
The latest concept in missile tactics to gain favour is that of the Cocktail', designed to overcome and confuse ECM systems: different types of missiles are fired at the target simultaneously and it is possible that a Mk 2 and Mk 3 Gabriel might be fired simultaneously using different modes of attack, Furthermore it is to be noted that the Reshef class are now equipped with the US Harpoon missile so providing even greater possibilities for Cocktail' mixes. Work on the proposed Gabriel Mk 4 anti-ship swept-wing missile has been abandoned. It was to have weighed is 960kg (150-200kg warhead) with a speed of Mach 0.85. Reportedly up to the present 2500-3000 Gabriels in all versions have been manufactured. It is interesting to note the current cost of one Gabriel missile: Mk 1/2- $400,000, Mk 3-$450,000, Mk 3 A/S $550,000, These costs have risen dramatically since 1971, when a Gabriel Mk 1 SSM cost only S85,000-$95,000. The Gabriel Mk 2 is being manufactured in South Africa under licence, while the was developed. In recent years Israeli industry has also produced a surface-to-air VLS. The missile weighs 98kg, is fitted with a warhead of 22kg and entering Israeli service in 1991-92. It was exported to Chile in 1988 and also armed the new "Victory-class" Singaporean frigates.
Artillery of the IDF Navy
In addition to developing missile tech, IAI deveoped a new twin 30 mm for point defence called TCM 30. It used the Hispano-Suiza 931 model, and the mount was low on a relatively heavy structure supporting the muzzles and designed to overcome muzzle droop and vibrations leading to little dispersion, an essential feature in a gun anti-missile system. The fully automated system is a completely above deck system with a magazine of 150 rounds per gun fired in bursts of 5, 10, 15 or 20 rounds. Target speeds up to 250-300m/sec can be handled and the barrels have an elevation of -50 to +85°. The mount has undergone satisfactory trials
in a Reshef class ship and was expected to equip the Reshef class and vessels then under construction, with subsequently a possible retrofitted for the older 'Saar' class boats. In the end it was fitted only to the
Shimrit class hydrofoils. In practice the Israeli Navy adopted mostly foreign systems. All bigger fighting ships are equipped with US Vulcan Phalanx Mk 15 CIWS and OTO Melara automatic 76mm/62 guns. Phalanx CIWSE pianned to be replaced with Barak SAM, The new corvettes will receive the new American Sea Vulcan 25 mm close-in weapon system.-->
The 1970s, in search of military independence
INS Ahsdod LCT, Saar 2, Saar 4, and Dabur in 1978
The Israeli created their own defense industries, notably because of the French arms embargo before the beginning of the Six-Day War, and IAI (Israeli Aircraft Industry) designed and built the Dvora
FACs in 1977, considered in its day as one of the very best of this light type in the world. It was derived from the 1973 Dabur
by then equipped only with cannons. This prototype was followed by the "Super Dvora
" series, from 1987 (4 in sevice 1990). In addition, hydrofoils were considered as an interesting alternative to traditional FACs and could be used as sea interceptors. Three units were built in the USA on the model of the USS Flagstaff in 1982-85, called the Shimrit
class. These forces were complemented by Kedma
class patrol boats (1968), preceded by the Yar 2
in 1956, and the Ophir
class (3) and Ayah
class (6) motor torpedo boats, which were added to the existing three British MTBs in 1949, one of type Fairmile B in 1950 (Haportzim
), and three HDML, named the Dror, Saar, and Tirtsa. Israel also replaced its five ex-British submarines with German designed, but Vickers-build units modified type 206, called Gal class
, in 1975-76. More recently, a new class of submarines was ordered on the same principle (to be built in Ingalls, UK), and derived based on the German type 212, but finally built in Kiel in 1997, the Dolphin class
Below are following the known and listed strength of the Israeli Navy at the eve of the Six Day War, Yom Kippur, and the Gulf War.
Fleet strength in 1967:
-Two destroyers, Eilat and Yaffa, the DE Haifa, the three submersible Leviathan class and the two Tanin class, the 6 VLT Ayah class, the 3 Ophir class, the 2 Yar class patrol boats, 2 HDML, the three LCT Etzion Geber.
Fleet Strength in 1973:
-Two submarines, Dolphin and Leviathan, 12 SAAR-1 missile launchers (Mirtach), 3 Ophir VLT class, 2 Yar, 4 Kedma class, 2 HDML, 3 LST class Etzion Geber, 3 class Ashdod, 1 Bat Sheva.
Fleet strength for 1990:
-3 Gal class subs., 12 class SAAR-1, 11 class SAAR-4, 4 class SAAR-4.5, 1 Dvora, 4 Super-Dvora FACs, 3 Shimrit class hydrofoil FACs, 24 Dabur class patrol boats, 28 Yatush, 4 Kedma, 3 Geber class LSTs, 3 Ashdod class LCTs, 1 Bat Sheva LST.
The Israeli Navy in Operations
1956, capture of INS Haifa
In 1948, the "fleet" only by name, did not have the least impact in the operations. In 1956, the Suez crisis in which the French, British and IDF were invlved in, a feat caused a sensation: The Egyptian frigate Ibrahim el Awal was captured by IDF forces, already been fired upon by the French destroyer Cassard following her night raid and shelling of Haifa installations. Rockets from two Sud-Est Ouragan jets recently purchased from the French stopped the frigate. After capture, she was evacuated and towed to Haifa before being pressed into Isreali service under that same name, "Haifa", becoming the first major vessel of the embryonic navy.
1967 six-day war:
During the 6-day war, the speed of the Israeli offensive left little time for the navy to shine. However, during the ensuing period, Eilat attacked and destroyed along with two MTBs, two other Egyptian ships on the coast of Sinai. In retaliation, the egytians sent recent Komar-class FACs, wich sank INS Eilat off Port Said. The latter did not even left the port and the three SSN-3 Styx hit her at anchor.
1973 Yom Kippour war:
ASW TTs, Chaff launchers and Gabriel SSM canister on the crowded deck of a SAAR 4 vessel
The Israeli forces also adopted a locally-designed state-of-the-art guidance equipment and developed the IAI Gabriel missiles. In 1973, at Yom Kippur, 13 IDF FACs equipped with 63 IAI "Gabriel" anti-ship missiles routed a force of 27 Syrian and Egyptian Komar and Osa FACs, armed with a total of 84 Styx missiles. This was the first example of a missile FAC battle in history. The famous Gabriel demonstrated an efficiency at least as great as the French Exocet, as exposed later in the Falklands. Israeli reputation in these advanced weapons system, battle-proven, benefited exports greatly after this action. Many Soviet "Styx" missiles were also shot down in mid-flight by QF cannons and effective countermeasures, showing once a missile was in the air, a FAC was not defenseless. Other actions were successfully carried out by smaller units, such as patrol boats. Thus, in the Gulf of Suez, 5 fast patrol boats were sent by bottom in a few minutes and no less than 19 trawlers and Egyptian armed patrol boats in the harbor of Ras Galeb went donw as well. Operations followed one another, notably using helicopter guidance, tracking and countermeasures combined with missile launcher launches, a veritable naval "blitzkrieg", which all proved to be valuable for coastal operations, in foreign navies.
Bat Sheva LST
Dabur class FACs
HPL-21 Ankaran, export version of the Super-Dvora class FACs
INS Lahav, SAAR 5
INS Tanin, Dolphin 2 class Attack Submarines
Shaldag Mk.3 class Fast Patrol Crafts
Lebanon crisis 1981
During the Lebanon war in 1981, an Israeli SAAR hit and destroyed the PFLP headquarters in Tripoli. Priority was also given to means of support during landings in Beirut. Since then, the role of patrol boats has been mainly to control any infiltration of PLO agents into Israeli territory.
The rise of the Libyan fleet forced the General Staff to rethink its construction program and to consider larger ships than the FACs deployed so far: It was initially the big SAAR 4.5 capable of operating and housing an helicopter, and more recently with the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War, and the Iraqi threat (which passed an order of 4 frigates and 6 corvettes to Italy shortly before invading Kuwait), acquired three stealth High-tech corvettes of the Eilat class
and ordered in the US a tailor-built weapons sytem inspired by the Aegis system, but in reduction.
These are nowadays in effect some of the most capable ships in the Middle East. And they have already their nose blooded: INS Hanit ("blade") was damaged by a C-802 ASM fired by Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War, but was fully Repaired.
The unbuilt French SAAR 5 class missile corvettes (1982)
A British source in 1982 stated that two ships of the "SAAR 5" type were in construction in France, and up to six more on order. The French reported this was a project offered by the yard, considered, but not ordered by the Israeli Navy. Internally known in CMN Cherbourg as "QU-09-35" and "Q9-Q35", it was called by its trade name "Corvette 850". It was proposed as an interim design from the last SAAR 4.5 (Reshef) 500 tons missile boats combining their high speed capabilities and agility to corvette-sized vessels with helicopter capabilities and better range. This was also reflected in a 1000-ton equivalent for electronics and armament, CIC.
They were intended for over the horizon target data acquisition for Harpoon FACs, with extensive command and control facilities, so acting a bit like "flotilla leaders" for SAAR 4/4.5 FACs. Tests were made for a low-mounted helicopter platform on INS Tarshish proved unsatisfactory, so the corvette size vessel was a better proposition. Planned armament in 1982 was conjectural, two quad canisters of Harpoon SSMs, two twin 30 mm Emerlec CIWS, a short range SAM, single or twin 40 mm/70 Breda oe 57 mm/70 Bofors, no TT. See the specs for the final, best known projected design. Eelctronics combined long range search/surveillance radars, air search, surface search, satnav, fire control, active/passive sonar and ECM. The project went nowhere and eventually evolved into a later German proposition of a stealthy ship proposed in 1988 and ordered in 1989, the Eilat class (SAAR 5).
Post cold war ships
Eilat (SAAR 5) class Corvettes (1993)
Stealthy Corvettes class SAAR5 (Eilat) in formation, pride of the current Israeli navy.
Only mentioned there as they were planned in 1989. The Israeli naval staff obtained that the government ordered four Sa'ar 6-class corvettes, of German-Israeli design, and built in Germany. They proceed from a much earlier prospect as the French already in 1982 proposed a design, which was never accepted or ordered. The new design came after a long reflection and rewrite of specifications. It is loosely based on the Braunschweig-class
corvette with a reinforced baseline platform to carry and operate more scalable military hardware on the long term. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems participated in the design, and the first of these ships (yet unnamed) is scheduled to enter service in 2019. Actual status in completion.
Cost is estimated 1.8 billion Israeli new shekel (NIS) or 430-million Euro ($480-million), German Government subsidizing a third of the construction costs, as well as the Dolphin class submarines. They are tasked to protect natural gas platforms in the Mediterranean sea, threatened by the Lebanese Hezbollah group as sitting in Palestinian waters.
These SAAR 6 are 2,000 tons, 90 m (300 ft) long vessels armed with an Melara 76 mm main gun, two Typhoon weapon systems, 32 vertical launch cells for Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles, C-Dome point defense system, 16 anti-ship missiles and two 324 mm torpedo launchers and EL/M-2248 MF-STAR AESA radar plus hangar to accommodate an SH-60 ASW helicopter. A pretty decent firepower for such a small package.
Dolphin class subs (1998)
INS Gal, a German-designed Type 209 diesel submarine
Modified Type 212 submarines built in Howaldtswerke, Kiel + Thyssen. The class comprised INS Dolphin, Leviathan and Tekuma. IKL Type 800 replacing the Type 500 submarines, authorized in 1988 but project cancelled in 1990. They wete originally to be assembled in Ingalls, Pascagoula using prefabricated sections by HDW but in January 1991 the German government offered to built the first two submarines in Germany, with German combat systems. In 1995 the third ordered was reinstated. They were given swimmer lockout facilities in the sail and boat stowage for eight spec-ops. Torpedo tubes were placed in two horizontal rows, the 650mm tubes outboard. One is usabled for swimmer exit and ingress. Liners are used for torpedo launching and they are enabled the Turbo Popeye nuclear cruise missile, and Triton anti-helicopter missile. Still in service today, alongside the 2012-2020 built Tanin class, built in HDW, Kiel, Germany + Nordseewerke. The latter are also called "Dolphin 2 class", ordered 2006 and 2012, enlarged and upgraded, but tailored to use Israeli missiles and combat control system. The Israeli fleet as for today thanks to its six Type 212s is probably one of the best in the region.
Dolphin of the same class
IDF subs portal
About the Doplhin class subs
IDF navy vets
About Mahal volunteers
On IDF navy vets
jewishvirtuallibrary.org - About volunteers
IDF Navy against Hezbollah
IDF Navy insigna ranks
Janes: Dome air defence system
defense-update.com: reshef class
about the no dual citizen policy in subs
Battle of Latakia
The boats of Cherbourg
On Ashe Lincoln
List of Israeli Ships - Early cold war
Ships deployed (and for some lost) during the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973:
Eilat class destroyers (1955)
INS Eilat at sea
In 1955 the UK sold HMS Zealous and Zodiac, active from November 1944 to Israel, commissioned as INS Eilat (From the eponym city) and Yaffo (same), in July 1956. On 31 October 1956 (the Suez Crisis) the Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim el Awal, a former Hunt class destroyer shelled the port of Haifa and was counter-attacked by the French destroyer Kersaint and both Israeli destroyers, Yaffo and Eilat. Together, they forced the Egyptian destroyer back towards Port Said when she was also attacked by two IDF/AF Ouragans, and a Douglas Dakota. The crew capitulated, the ship was boarded, and towed to Haifa (and renamed Haifa) to be recommissioned in Israeli service (see later). Both destroyers, not modified since 1956, also soldiered on in 1967:
During a night patrol on 11–12 July 1967, Eilat and two Israeli MTBs met two Egyptian MTBs off the Rumani coast, engaged and sank them, but INS Eilat herself was sunk on 21 October 1967 in Mediterranean international waters, off Port Said (Sinai) hit by three Styx missiles from Egyptian Komar type FACs. This was a world's first, whhich immediately attracted attention on missile FACs. Eilat's radar was able to spot the vessels but could not recougnise their type, and the latter were soon in range to fire, from within the port, which blurred the signal. Eilat's captain ordered an evasive action when all four vectors were detected, but there was a first hit above the waterline, and a second not far away.
Eilat listed heavily, but there was no rescue to come. She remained dead in the water until a second missile wave, six strong, hit her, also from Port Said. The third missile hit Eilat amidships, but a fourth went astray, crashing in the water. Burning and listing, she sank two minutes later, with 47 killed/missing, 90–100 wounded. 67 hours after the attack Port Suez was shelled, its three oil refineries destroyed and areas as well despite UN requests for a ceasefire. Only Soviet Union dispatching seven warships dissuaded Israel from further attacks. This event also had a profond impact on the IDF Navy, spawning greater interest for missile FACs, which caracterized the navy ever since. The end result was the successful use of Sa'ar 2-class in the Yom Kippur War. On her side, INS Yaffo was stricken in 1972, so one year before this war.
Frigate INS Haifa (1956)
Ibrahim el-Awal taken in tow by Israeli tugs in October 1956
Some WW2 ships had amazing careers. Such was the case with HMS Mendip, a Hunt type 1
escort destroyer (launched 1940), soldiering in WW2, she was resold as Lin Fu and recommissioned on 21 January 1948 under ROC service until the Nationalist fell and took refuge in Taiwan at the end of the civil war. Out of service on 29 May 1949 she was returned to the RN. In November 1949, she was resold to the Egyptian navy, recommissioned as Mohammed Ali el-Kebi (15 November 1949) and renamed again Ibrahim el-Awal in 1951. In 1956 she took part in the Suez crisis, dispatched on 30 October 1956 to Haifa, in order to shell the city's coastal oil installations. French and Israeli ships deployed during Operation Musketeer
chased her off back to port Said, but she was caught and hammered by Ouragan fighters until surrendering to approaching IDF vessels, her turbo generator destroyed and rudder jammed. The crew attemped to scuttled her but cold not due to rusted valves. They just surrendered when IDF ships arrived. She was towed to the port of Haifa after capture, incorporated into the Israeli Navy as INS Haifa. She served until the late 1960s and decommissioned,, relegated as target ship and sunk in 1970 by a Gabriel missile, IDF answer to the Soviet Styx.
Mivtakh class frigates (1950)
INS Miznak 1950s
Mivtakh, Misnak, Misgav
Three Canadian Yarrow-built River class Frigates purchased in 1950. They had been resold to merchant service in 1945-47 and later acquired on the stocks and renamed Mivtakh, Misnak and Misgav. No modifications apart an additional 4-in gun mounted on Misgav in 1956 during the Suez crisis, in which all three took a part. Some has been resold to Egypt as well and met their equivalent both in the IDF but also Royal Navies... The first two were resold in August 1959 and the last to the Royal Ceylon Navy, stricken in 1961. Their pennants were 28, 32 and 30.
Hagahah class corvettes (1950)
Two ex-RCN flower class, Canadian-built (Morton yard) corvettes, resold to merchant service and acquired on the stocks in 1950. HMCS Beauharnois and Norsyd became Wedgewood and Haganah respectively (no pennant). Both served until 1956, stricke, taking no part to the Suez crisis.
Tanin class subs (1958)
INS Tanin 1971
Ex British-built S-class submersibles from the wartime series, HMS Springer and Sanguine buult in Cammell Laird, launched in 1945. They had little service in WW2, and were soon placed on the disposal list, pending a possible purchase. It came in October 1958 as both were ordered by the Israeli Navy. They were modernized as part of the purchased before delivery. The first was renamed Tanin (#71) in December 1959 as commissioned and the second Rahav (#72) in May 1960. Already capable of a crash dive in 30 sec. they were fitted with "snort" mast and sonar domes. INS Tanin participated in the Six-Day War, carrying and launching naval commandos (frogmen) to attack the port of Alexandria. They tried to torpedo an Egyptian sloop (damaged) but did not returned. Tanin’s Commander, Lieutenant Commander Abraham (Ivan) Dror (later Rear Admiral) received the Israeli citation for valour as a result of his actions at the port of Alexandria. INS Rahav participated in six days war. Worn out, she could not submerge and was stricken after being used asn ASW warfare training sub. Tanin was stricken in 1968 to be cannibalized and maintain Rahav. She was officially stricken in 1972.
Leviathan class Subs (1967)
INS Leviathan leaving Portsmouth 1967
Leviathan, Dakar, Dolphin
Three oceanic T-class submersibles built at Chatham and Devonport in 1944-45. Their acquisition by IDF was announced in 1964, and they were modernized before transfer, in May and November 1967 and January 1968, too late to take part in the six-day 1967 war. The modernization of HMS Turpin (INS Leviathan, #75) had her streamlined and lenghtened by 12 feets, Totem (INS Dakar #77) and Truncheon (INS Dolphin #78) by 20 feets. Guns and external TTs were removed, electronics and sonars modernized. Dakar was lost during her transfer in the eastern Mediterranean in January 1968. Leviathan was discarded in 1975 and Dolphin in 1977 so both wre active during the Yom Kippur war.
SAAR 1 class FACs (1967)
INS Yaffo as completed, 1973
Mirtak, Miznag, Mufgav, Eilath, Haifa, Akko, Saar, Hanit, Gaash, Herev, Hanit, Hetz
The Sa'ar class were designed in Germany by Lürssen and built in france at CMN Cherbourg. The first six were ordered in 1965 fitted at first with three 40 mm Breda guns like the Italian Freccia PBs, and classified as "SAAR 1" class while the second serie was ordered in 1966, also six ships with a 76 mm OTO Melara gun. The first three plus Haifa were delivered unarmed so to circumvent the embargo and the last five were "stolen" in Cherbourg on 24 November 1969, officially registered as "Starboatd I-V" supply ship for the Norwegian oilfield refinery at sea and under Panamean flag. They all made it in Israel and were officially commissioned in 1970 (launched 1967-69). Two more were delivered after the embargo was lifted.
The class was modified and later sub-distinguished as SAAR 2 and SAAR 3 boats. The SAAR I had three 40 mm/70 Modello 1958/11 Breda guns, four single 324 mm Mk.32 ASW TTs with Mk.46 acoustic torpedoes and two 0.5 in cal. HMGs and an ELAC sonar. The SAAR 2 boats had an interim 76 mm OTO gun. SAAR 3 subgroup had Gabriel SSMs fitted, making them missile FACs. More on the Gabriel SSMs soon. Electronics were French & Italian. They were in the 1970s the most sophisticated Israeli vessels so far and the most powerful regional warships afloat. In 1973 (Yom Kippur) they showed their metal by sinking seven Arab FACs without any loss in October. They were discarded gradually in the 1990s, with Hanit and Hetze resold to Chile.
⚙ Specs Saar 3
|Dimensions||44,9 m (146 ft) x Beam 7 m (23 ft) x Draught 1.7-2.5 m (6-8 ft)|
|Displacement||220 long tons standard, 250 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||4 shaft maybach Mercedes MD872 diesels 13,500 shp|
|Speed||42 knots ()|
|Range||1000-2500 nmi at 30-15 knots|
|Electronics||Thomson CSF Neptune, Selenia Orion, ECM VHF DIF, intercept gear|
|Armament||2x3 Gabriel SSMs, 1x 76 mm OTO, 12 Chaff RL|
SAAR 4 class FACs (1973)
INS Yaffo as completed, 1973
INS Modelet as modernized, 1987
Reshef, Keshet, Romah, Kidon, Tarshish, Yaffo, Nitzahon, Atsmout, Modelet, Komemiut.
Development of new long range FACs started in 1968, and designed for an increase in armament and electronics, to reach the level of a small corvette. The largest upgrade was the obtention of Harpoon SSMs added to the already capability of the Gabriels for shorter range. Their were much larger, with a displacement beyond 400 tonnes, more range, to the price of less speed. With missiles indeed, reaching 42 knots seems no longer necessary. Missiles had a sufficient reach to reach targets sufficiently far away, and for the Harpoons, beyond the horizon. They were fitted all with two OTO Melara guns (fore and aft) but modernized versions had a Phalanx CIWS forward (Modelet, Komemiut) and powerful ECM capabilities as well as a generous Chaff launching system (four large, six small, all 12-barrelled) to make them invulnerable to missiles of the generation still used by arab countries in the 1970s. Ten ships were built in total in two batches, launched 1973-79. Also for the first time, all the electronics were Israeli made.
In total Thirteen were built at the Israel Shipyards, ten for the Israeli Navy and three for the South African Navy plus another six built in South Africa with Israeli assistance. Very capable ships, they missed the Yom Kippur war but participated in operations off the Lebanese coast, notably enforcing the blocus and fighting Hezbollah fast boats. Keshet and Romash were resold in 1979-80 to Chile, followed by Reshef in 1997 as well as Tarshish. INS Kidon was preserved as submarine memorials and Yaffo scrapped in 1998. All last four ships were redirected to ASW warfare and their systems recycles into the Sa'ar 4.5 hulls. The last two were sold to Sri Lanka in 2000 and sold for BU recently. The Chilean vessels are still in service, but one is used for spares. The SANDF Warrior-class (Minister class) strike craft has been all decommissioned before 2021.
⚙ Specs Saar 4
|Dimensions||58,1 m (190 ft) x Beam 7.6 m (24 ft) x Draught 2.4 m (7 ft)|
|Displacement||415 long tons standard, 450 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||4 shaft MTU 16V diesels 14,000 shp|
|Range||4000/1600 nmi at 17-30 knots|
|Electronics||Thomson CSF Neptune, Selenia Orion, ECM MN56 intercept, Chaff RL|
|Armament||2x4 Harpoon SSM, 6 Gabriel SSMs, 2x76 mm OTO, 2x20 mm, AA 12 Chaff RL|
Dvora class FAC(M)s (1976)
Naval Encylopedia's rendition of the INS Dvora class
A single prototype was made, similar to the "Dabur" but smaller, nimbler and faster, and still designed to carry missiles. The Dvora ("seagull") became the smallest missile FAC on the market, and in fact, was designed for practicity and tailored for the export market. It was constructed of aluminium alloys, was transportable by land, and also stored on land with ease, and modular. Trials started in 1977, and right away two were ordered by Nicaragua at 3-4 million $ apiece, basically 15% cheaper than standard FACs, even Soviet.
The IDF ordered for the Israeli Sea Corps nine, and Initially 11 were in service wth the prototype stricken in 1991, decommissioned after collision with a rocky shoal. It was a smash on the export market, with four ordered for the Sri Lanka Navy, acquired in 1984-1986, some sunk in the 1990s, and the Republic of China Navy: Two original Dvora acquired in the 1980s plus 48 local variants called Hai Ou-class retired 1999-2012 and 6 gifted to Gambia and Paraguay.
⚙ Specs Dvora 1977
|Dimensions||21,6 m (70 ft) x Beam 5.5 m (18 ft) x Draught 0.9 m (6 ft)|
|Displacement||38 long tons standard, 47 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||2 shafts MTU 12V diesels 2,720 shp|
|Range||700 nmi at 27-32 knots|
|Electronics||Radar DECCA 926|
|Armament||2 Gabriel SSMs, 2x 20 mm, 2x 12.7 mm HMG|
Lilitt class MTBs (1949)
Three and up to nine (according to various sources) British-built 70 feets Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) were purchased in 1948-49. They were as registered in the 1950s INS Lilitt (pennant 209), Shaldagg (210) and Tinshemett (212). Specs as the original MTBs, but possible electronic modernization in the late 1950s. In any case, their fate is uncertain but they were no longer registered in 1967 and did not took part in operations, but probably patrolled Israeli waters during the 1956 Suez crisis.
Israeli Motor Launches (1952-53)
In 1951 or 52, the Israeli Navy also acquired an ex-Fairmile B type motor launch, ex M-17, renamed Haportzim, armed with three 20 mm Oerlikon guns and twelve DCs. She was stricken in 1961. At the same tme were also obtained three habour defence motor launches, renamed Dvor, Saar and Tirsta, pennants 21, 35 and 25 respectively. They were rearmed with a single 40 mm Bofors, one 20 mm and 8 DCs and after Saar was discarded in 1965 or 1968 the others were rearmed one 47 mm, one 40 mm Bofors and 8 DCs or two 20 mm guns, and were kept for police work and coast guard until stricken in 1974-1976.
Ayah class FAC(T)s (1951)
French-built Israeli MTBs from Chantiers Navals de Meulan
Ayah, Baz, Daya, Peress, Tahmass, Yasoor.
Built in France, ordered 1949, delivered 1951-52. They were the first dedicated Fast Attack Crafts of the Israeli Navy, capable of 42 knots and torpedo armed. They orginally had a wooden hull, propelled by four 12-cylinder Arsenal marine/Otto petrol engines producing 4200 bhp total. They were armed originally with one 40 mm Bofors, four 20 mm Oerlikon AA, two 457 mm TTs, but served mostly as MGBs, without their TTs. They were modernized in 1961-62: See specs. The Deltic Diesels improved the range and safety to the cost of some speed, the superstructures were altered, radars added, but in the late 1960s they only retained one or two 20 mm AA and were used as PBs only. Stricken 1972-74.
⚙ Specs Ayah 1962
|Dimensions||26 m (85 ft) x Beam 6.3 m (20 ft) x Draught 1.5 m (4 ft)|
|Displacement||62 long tons standard, 70 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||2 shafts Deltic diesels 5,000 bhp|
|Range||600-900 nmi at 25-32 knots|
|Electronics||Radar DECCA 926|
|Armament||1x 40 mm, 2x 20 mm, 2x 18-in TTs|
Ophir class FAC(T)s(1956)
Ophir, Shva, Tarshish.
Built in Baglietto, Italy with the same specs as the French boats, wooden hull and same engines, same armament. Pennants T150-52, delivered 1956-57. Not modernized in the 1960s but radar probably added, TT and the 40 mm removed. Stricken 1970s (No photo or blueprint).
⚙ Specs Ophir 1957
|Dimensions||21,3 m (70 ft) x Beam 5.2 m (17 ft) x Draught 1.5 m (5 ft)|
|Displacement||40 long tons standard, 45 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||2 shafts petrol Packard-Otto 4,000 bhp|
|Range||400 nmi at 28 knots|
|Electronics||None as built|
|Armament||1x 40 mm, 2x 20 mm, 2x 18-in TTs|
Yar class OPVs (1956)
Two coast guard cutters purchased in Germany by Yacht & Bootswerft Burmester of Bremen in 1956, delivered in 1957. They were 25 knots were coast guard cutters relegated as TS in the late 1960s and discarded in 1976 (unknown for Yarden, non-armed training craft).
⚙ Specs Yar 1957
|Dimensions||30,5 m (100 ft) x Beam 6.1 m (20 ft) x Draught 1.8 m (6 ft)|
|Displacement||96 long tons standard, 109 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||2 shafts MTU 12V diesels 2,000? bhp|
|Range||900 nmi at 20 knots|
|Armament||2x 20 mm AA|
Kedma class CPCs (1968)
Kedma, Yama, Negba, Tzafona.
Built in Japan in 1968, handy boats of the small seaward defence type. Stee hull, used for coast guard and police duties along the coast, capable of 25 knots. Their 20 mm were discarded and replaced by light MGs at the end of their career. They were discarded in 1992.
⚙ Specs Kedma 1969
|Dimensions||20,4 m (66 ft) x Beam 4.6 m (15 ft) x Draught 1.5 m (4 ft)|
|Displacement||26 long tons standard, 39 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||2 shaftsdiesels 1,540 shp|
|Range||700 nmi at 27-32 knots|
|Armament||2x 20 mm AA|
Israeli early assault ships (1950s)
AFHAL PYAKAN tank landing craft
: Afal Pyakan, Gosh Atzion. Former British TLC(2) type tank landing craft. The first arrived Israel with refugees on board while the second was purchased from the Royal Navy. Discarded in 1957-58.
IAD MORDEKHAI landing barges
: Iad Mordekhai, Vavid Harvah were former German MFP type D barges, transferred from Italy in 1948, used both in the 1948 war and 1956 Suez crisis, discarded in 1957.
ROMAT RAKHEL infantry landing ships
: Ramat Rachel and Nitzanim were WW2 LCI(L) purchased in 1948-49. They served their purpose in 1956 at Suez and were discarded the next year.
Unnamed LCM landing craft
: i-vi, Makh-32, Makh-38, Makh-40 were WW2 Landing Crafts, mechanized, nine purchased on the stocks in 1949 and three more built in Israel in 1957-1961. The first were discared probably in 1957 and the latter in the late 1980s.
SHEVA medium landing ships
: Sheva, Ofir, Tarshish - Former USN LSM class medium landing ships, purchased from merchant service in 1970, stricken in 1984.
Etzion Gueber class assault ships (1965)
Atzion Gueber (F51), Kessari (F53), Shikmona (F55)
Three landing ship built in Israel, Israel SYds, Haifa in 1964-65. Small LCUs inspired by British WW2 LCU models. They were credited with other dimensions, 36.6 x 7.1 x 1.4 m (120 ft x 23 ft 4 in x 4 ft 7 in). They were all transported by land to Eilat for the six days war and back across the desert by night, to tie down Egyptian ships in the red sea, simulating a buildup for the capture of Sharm El Sheikh, a brillant and successful deception. All three were stricken in 1991.
Quic specs: Displacement 182/230 T FL, Length 27.5/36.6m, beam 7.10, draught 1.40, 2 shafts diesels 1280 bhp 10 kts, armed with two 20mm/70 Mk 10, carrying 3 tanks and about 250 troops. Crew 12.
Ashdod class LCT (1966)
Ashdod (F61), Ashkelon (F63), Achkziv (F65)
Three LCTs built in Haifa Shipyard in 1966-67. Completion during the six days war. An helicopter pad was fitted aft. Ashdod was tested for the Barak VLS from 2002. Ashkelon was sold to Ethiopia in 1993 and Ashkziv was discarded in 1999.
⚙ Specs Ash class 1967
|Dimensions||62.7 m (207 ft) x Beam 10 m (32 ft) x Draught 1.8 m (5 ft)|
|Displacement||400 long tons standard, 730 long tons FL|
|Propulsion||3 shafts MWM diesels 1,900 bhp|
|Range||Oil 37 tons, 500? nmi at 8 knots|
|Armament||2x 20 mm AA|
Bat Sheva class LCT (1966)
INS Bat Sheva was the ex-Tzilngi, built in the Netherlands for South Africa in 1967, repurchased by Israel as it could not be delivered due to the embargo. She had a bow ramp and was presumably used in Lebanon. She was pprobably discarded in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Quickspecs: Displacement 900 t stadard, 1150 tons FL. Dimensions 95.1 x 11.2 x 2.1m. Machinery 2x2 Paxman & Iberia diesels, 10 kts. Armed with Four 20mm/70 Mk 10, four 0.5 cal. or 12.7mm/90 HMGs. Military load: 16 tanks, 2 helicopters (Super Frelon), Electronic equipment 2 Decca 926 radars, crew 26.
-INS Nogah, ex-PC 1188 standard US submarine-chaser was transferred in 1952 or 1953 and clasified as patrol vessel, discarded from 1975 and used as target ship for Gabriel SSMs.
-INS Eilath, the ex USN Northand coast guard cutter WPG49 (1927) acquired in 1948 after brief mercantile service. She rammed a RN destroyer during her migrant run thanks to her reinforced icebreaker bow, and had a 60 mm mountain gun lashed to her deck, so she was quite active in the 1948-49 war as well. She became a training ship, partially disarmed, renamed Matzpen, and sold for BU 1962.
-INS Mala, TS. Ex-Mayflower (1897), used already in the 1898 war, 1902-1905 presidential yacht with the Russo-japanese peace treaty signed on board. Discarded 1929, badly burned in 1931, SS Butte in south Am service, USS WPG 38 (armed transport) from 1942-45, Coast Guard & TS 1946, decomm. burnt, repurchased under Panamean flag in Israeli service and used as migrant runner in 1947, then TS until 1955, BU.
Late cold war IDF ships
These ships took part in the 1980s Lebanon war.
Dabur class CPCs (1973)
Naval Encylopedia's rendition of the INS Dabur class
Yatush class PBs (1974)
SAAR4.5 class FACs (1980)
Shimrit class Hydropters FAC(M)s (1982)
Super Dvora class FAC(G)s (1988)
Gal class subs (1975)