In response to the growing rocket threat to Israel’s offshore energy assets, the Israel Navy is modifying the design of its new Sa’ar-6 corvettes now under contract in Germany to make room for twice as many Iron Dome interceptors as originally planned, according to Defense News.
A senior officer told Defense News that growing quantities of 122mm Grad-type rockets and longer-range projectiles in Hezbollah's arsenals has prompted the Navy to rethink early requirements, which called for a single Iron Dome launcher to be integrated into each of the four ships now under contract with Kiel, Germany-based ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
"Because of this growing threat, we’re adding another (Iron Dome) launcher on the Sa’ar-6,” the officer said of the new, 1800-ton displacement versions of the Blohm+Voss Class 130 corvette selected by Israel for defense of offshore assets in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
According to the officer, each new Sa’ar-6 will be equipped with two Iron Dome launchers, each capable of firing as many as 20 Tamir intercepting missiles. Those sea-based Iron Domes will defend against disruptive, possibly deadly and inexpensive shore-launched rockets while the Barak-8 anti-missile and air-defense system will defend ships as well as offshore assets against much more sophisticated and deadly threats, such as the supersonic, anti-ship P800 Yakhont cruise missile.
Both vertically-launched systems – Iron Dome and Barak-8 – will be supported by the ELM-2248 Adir, a multi-function surveillance, track and guidance radar by IAI/ELTA. In order to accommodate the radar’s four phased array panels, the Israel Navy has been working for the past year to redesign the German vessel’s baseline bow section to house three panels and the shape of the rear mast to house the final phased array panel.
It’s also been working for more than a year to redesign the crew berthing area to accommodate the radar and the Iron Dome and Barak-8 intercepting systems. The latest decision to add another Iron Dome launcher could delay slightly Israel’s receipt of its first Sa’ar-6, which had been expected to arrive in so-called safe sail mode – without its combat weapons suite – by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Defense News adds that the four Sa’ar-6 corvettes on order with the TKMS shipyard have been the subject of an ongoing investigation into potential conflicts of interest among those close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The officer declined to discuss anything pertaining to the criminal investigation, but insisted that the ships were a top Navy priority and that the service had full confidence in the proven capabilities of the shipyard.