Defense Ministry to shell out NIS 1.5 billion on gas field security ships
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Defense Ministry to shell out NIS 1.5 billion on gas field security ships

Israel to buy a host of naval defense systems for country's 'economic waters,' including anti-missile batteries

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An aerial view of the Israeli 'Tamar' gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon. Noble Energy and Delek are the main partners in the oil field, October 11, 2013. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
An aerial view of the Israeli 'Tamar' gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon. Noble Energy and Delek are the main partners in the oil field, October 11, 2013. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Defense Ministry announced a NIS 1.5 billion ($420 million) deal on Sunday to outfit the Israeli Navy with maritime systems to protect the country’s gas fields and shipping lanes.

This is in addition to the purchase of four Sa’ar-6 warships that are meant to guard Israel’s economic waters in the Mediterranean Sea.

The NIS 1.5 billion budget will go to missile defense batteries, electronic warfare, navigation systems, command and control centers, communication gear and other naval systems, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

In recent days, two agreements were reached with Israeli companies for some of the systems, while the rest of the individual deals are expected to be reached by year’s end, the ministry said.

Israeli soldiers onboard the Israeli vessel Sa'ar 5 Class Corvette "INS Hanit" attend a training session during the "Novel Dina 17" exercise in the Mediterranean Sea on April 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
Israeli soldiers onboard the Israeli vessel Sa’ar 5 Class Corvette “INS Hanit” attend a training session during the “Novel Dina 17” exercise in the Mediterranean Sea on April 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Astronautics C.A. Ltd., a Petah Tikva-based firm, won the tender to develop the navigation systems for the Sa’ar 6 warships, using sensors and a proprietary computer program. The government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, meanwhile, will manufacture the internal and external communication systems for the corvettes.

All of the systems in this deal will be purchased from Israeli defense contractors, unlike the Sa’ar 6 corvettes, which were purchased from Germany.

“The Defense Ministry made it its mission to deepen its purchases from Israel as much as possible, even in a situation where there’s a highly competitive market with extensive international supply and a budget in shekels,” said Col. (res.) Avi Dadon, the head of the ministry’s procurement department.

Col. (res.) Avi Dadon, head of the Defense Ministry's procurement department. (Defense Ministry)
Col. (res.) Avi Dadon, head of the Defense Ministry’s procurement department. (Defense Ministry)

The remainder of the systems are expected to be purchased by the end of 2017, so that they can be ready before the four Sa’ar 6 ships arrive in 2019.

The ministry referred to the NIS 1.5 billion deal as a “substantial milestone” in the multi-year plan to protect Israel’s gas fields.

With the discovery of natural gas fields off Israel’s coast in early 2009, the navy has had to restructure, retrain and re-outfit itself to protect what the government determined to be a strategic national interest.

The Israeli Navy, which up until that point functioned mostly as a coast guard, had to prepare to defend gas fields approximately 100 kilometers off shore.

“These procurement deals for the economic waters project — a project in which the IDF will protect the gas fields — have significant meaning for the economy of the state and its security, and [the deals] are further proof of that,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement.

In March, the navy told Defense News that it would be installing two Iron Dome batteries on every Sa’ar 6 corvette, instead of one as originally planned, in order to better protect them from Hezbollah rockets.

According to the report, the alteration may delay the 2019 or 2020 scheduled arrival of the Sa’ar 6 corvettes.

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