Israel’s navy conducted a new trial of a sea-to-sea missile system that it says will ensure naval superiority in the future. Israel is in the midst of modernizing its navy as it acquires new Sa’ar 6 class corvettes that will form the backbone of the country’s missile boat flotilla.
The trial was announced on September 25 by Israel’s Navy in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D). The new missile system was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The missile test video put out by the Israeli Defense Forces shows a missile fired from a multiple missile launcher that appears capable of carrying four similar types of missiles. The missile is fired out to the clear blue sea from the ship and then flies toward a naval target. The video from the missile flying at the target is shown along with the destruction of the target and Israeli military personnel cheering the trial.
Commander Roee Dryer of the 33rd Missile Boat Squadron of the Israeli navy says that the experiment was carried out with the navy’s 3rd flotilla. He says the missile was fired at a dummy target. He then noted that the navy is responsible for defending Israel’s waters and economic interests and that it is prepared to provide the most technological and advanced weapons to meet Israel’s security needs. The test is supposed to meet the readiness of the navy and improve its abilities.
Another source with Israel’s DDR&D who was involved with the test noted that the system is one of the most advanced in the world. It is a “revolution on the naval battlefield. The system is based on advanced technologies…enables capabilities previously unseen in the field of naval warfare.” It is a joint outcome of the combination of IAI and the Ministry of Defense and the navy and represents Israel advances in missile warfare, he said. This includes advances in electronic warfare, propulsion, command and control and lethality, Israel’s DDR&D says.
According to IAI’s Boaz Levy, IAI vice-president of the company’s missile and space group, the advanced system accomplished its goal as expected and it the target exactly as planned. “The new missile system offers enhanced offensive precision capabilities, has longer range, possesses improved offensive flexibility and is better equipped to engage advanced threats,” the Israeli Defense Forces statement said.
The trials prepared the system for integration on the new Sa’ar 6 ships and the Sa’ar 5 class of corvettes. In coming months this integration should take place. “The introduction of the system will serve as a significant addition to the force build up efforts of the Israeli Navy, and ensure its continued naval superiority,” Israel says.
Israel’s navy currently consists of three Sa’ar 5 corvettes which were launched in the 1990s and weigh 1,200 tonnes and are 85 meters long. This is dramatically smaller than U.S. Littoral Combat Ships or destroyers. Israel will eventually have four of the Sa’ar 6 ships, whose delivery was delayed due to the coronavirus. Israel also has eight smaller missile boats, five sophisticated submarines and numerous patrol boats. The navy in Israel’s history was always the smallest of the services. However, in recent years new threats have mean more investment. Because Israel is not only facing terror groups that function more like insurgents, such as Hamas, but more sophisticated enemies such as Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the need for ships that can protect new gas rigs off the coast and confront larger enemies is necessary.
Reports indicate Israel is also festooning the new ships with its latest EL/M-2248 Elta radar, a naval version of the air defense system Iron Dome, Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles and Typhoon 22mm remote weapon station guns and the latest technology for cyber and electronic threats as well as integration with Israel’s multiple layers of drones. Israel also tested a new ship-killing missile called Lora, also made by IAI, back in June. That test was a success.
The upgrades for the navy are part of Israel’s overall modernization of its armed forces to meet new kinds of threats. This is called “Momentum” and it is Israel’s multi-year plan to bring the best technology to the frontline with new “multi-dimensional units” more combined units training together, a reorganization of the air force special forces into a new unit, more drones and unmanned ground vehicles and even unmanned naval ships. It about more networked warfare and using the latest missile and air defense technology, combined with U.S. F-35s which Israel now has two squadrons. Together Israel hopes the new technology will be a game-changer in any future war and also deter enemies at sea.
IAI, which built the new system, is also in the midst of new acquisitions. On September 24 it announced it would acquire 50% of BlueBird Aero Systems, an Israeli UAV maker that makes smaller tactical UAVs. This is the second consolidation in Israel’s UAV market in a year, after Rafael acquired half of Aeronautics last year. It illustrates that Israel’s large defense companies are seeing value in smaller UAVs and wanting to offer them alongside multiple layers of medium and larger UAVs that Israel already excels in making.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (forthcoming Gefen Publishing). Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.
Image: IDF YouTube Video Screen Shot.