IDF reveals names of four new gas field-defending Sa’ar 6 warships

Navy corvettes, the first of which is set to be delivered next year, will be called: Magen, Oz, Atzmaut, and Nitzahon

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A computer graphic rendering of a Sa'ar 6 corvette, which is currently being constructed for the Israeli Navy in Germany. (Israel Defense Forces)
A computer graphic rendering of a Sa'ar 6 corvette, which is currently being constructed for the Israeli Navy in Germany. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Navy on Sunday announced the names of its four new Sa’ar 6-class corvettes, the first of which is due to be delivered by the end of 2019.

The ships will be named “Magen,” meaning shield; “Oz,” meaning valor; “Atzmaut,” meaning independence; and “Nitzahon,” meaning victory.

The first corvette is scheduled to arrive in late 2019. The other three will be delivered by the beginning of 2021.

The ships are far larger and more powerful than the Sa’ar 5-class warships — currently Israel’s biggest — and are specifically meant to protect the country’s gas field and shipping lanes.

“The arrival of the ships will significantly change the face of the Navy,” said the head of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit.

“The navy will operate vessels with new capabilities that we do not currently possess,” he said.

German workers look over plans for a Sa’ar 6 corvette that is being constructed for the Israeli Navy in Kiel, Germany, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The 300-feet-long (90-meter) warships, which are currently being built in Kiel, Germany, will be packed to the gills with highly sensitive detection equipment — to monitor both the surrounding sea and airspace — as well as offensive weapons and defensive missile interceptors. The corvettes also come equipped with a landing pad for a Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

“We’re making use of them down to the last centimeter,” a senior officer told reporters last year.

The Sa’ar 6 corvettes will be outfitted with both a modified version of the Iron Dome system, known as the Naval Iron Dome, as well as the Barak 8 missile interceptor.

Illustrative: The Israel Navy launches its new ‘Barak 8’ missile defense system on November 26, 2015. (screen capture: Israel Defense Forces)

The senior officer explained that the Naval Dome system will provide a response primarily to simpler ballistic attacks, while the Barak 8 system is meant to counter more advanced guided missiles.

“But the Sa’ar 6 isn’t just defensive; it is also able to attack from long-range. It is deadly and can stand up to the threats,” the officer said.

The threats include a variety of Russian- and Chinese-made shore-to-sea missiles, which are believed to be in the hands of the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, respectively.

Both terror groups are also believed to be developing other naval capabilities, including autonomous submersibles, suicide drones and scuba-diving commando units, Israeli naval officials have said.

Some of those weapons have already been deployed against Israel in combat, by Hezbollah in the 2006 Second Lebanon War and by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war. Hezbollah succeeded in severely damaging the navy’s INS Hanit with a shore-to-sea missile in the 2006 conflict, and Hamas made use of a naval commando unit in a daring — though ultimately ineffectual — coastal attack at Zikim Beach in 2014.

Two C-130J transport planes fly past a Sa’ar 5-class corvette off the Tel Aviv coast for Israel’s 70th Independence Day on April 19, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Until the first of the Sa’ar 6-class corvettes arrive, the navy will rely on its current fleet.

Last November, the Israeli Navy outfitted an existing Sa’ar 5, with a Naval Dome battery that is meant to act as an interim security measure.

In addition to purchasing the four cutting-edge Sa’ar 6 corvettes, the Defense Ministry announced a NIS 1.5 billion ($420 million) deal last July to outfit the Israeli Navy with maritime systems to protect the country’s gas fields and shipping lanes, including missile defense batteries, electronic warfare, navigation systems, command and control centers and communication gear.

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