The first of four Sa’ar 6-class corvettes will soon be delivered to the Israeli Navy. The German-built ships mark a turning point in Israeli naval doctrine and allow the Navy to sail farther out to sea for longer periods of time than was previously possible.
Israel is highly dependent on gas rigs and oil infrastructure for electricity production—up to 70% of Israeli electricity comes from offshore oil. Compounding the need for a muscular Israeli naval presence is the fact that up to 98% of Israeli imports arrive via ship.
Terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas have asserted that Israeli oil rigs lie in Palestinian waters and have vowed to destroy the Israeli installations. Israeli assessments have found that those groups are able to “fire high-trajectory rockets of a wide range, that are able to reach the gas rigs,” making it necessary for a robust Israeli maritime presence.
“It is highly important that the Israeli Navy’s missile boats have high-trajectory rocket and shore-to-sea missile interception systems, such as “Naval Dome” and LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device).”
Large and immobile, gas infrastructure at sea—gas and oil platforms in particular—are especially vulnerable to attack. Two or three Sa’ar 6 corvettes will likely be at least semi-permanently stationed in the vicinity of oil platforms, leaving one or two corvettes available for cooperation with the rest of the Israeli Navy.
These corvettes are clearly necessary for the Israeli Navy—but what are their capabilities?
It is estimated that up to 90% of the Sa’ar 6’s onboard systems are of indigenous Israeli design, including a modern Adir radar system, Israeli’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, as well as Barak long-range surface-to-air missile defense system. The class may have several torpedo launch tubes. There is also enough space at the ship’s stern to accommodate a mid-sized helicopter, likely the American-designed Seahawk helicopter.
The ships also feature a stealthy-contoured hull and bridge, making the ship more difficult to detect. The Sa’ar 6 manufacturer, Thyssenkrupp, calls the class the world’s most modern corvette and estimates that the ships will serve for at least thirty-five years.
In a sign of goodwill between the German Federal Government and the State of Israel, Berlin will cover about a third of the Sa’ar 6’s construction costs. Previously, Germany covered about a third of the Dolphin-class submarines as well.
The Sa’ar 6-class will allow expands how far the Israeli Navy is able to push out to sea. They’ll also offer the Israeli Defense Forces a power projection capability they’ve not had before—enemies beware.
Caleb Larson is a defense writer for the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.