Heil HaYam – The Israeli Navy

The history of the Jewish people and their newfound homeland deserves many chapters. It is a hot topic all the more fascinating as it has ignited the Middle East for more than half a century, is one of the main causes of international terrorism, and is suffering from growing opposition from extremists. on both sides. Behind, a real religious war between Christians and Jews on the one hand and the Islamic world on the other. a real clash of civilizations with a radically opposed view of an economic model and a philosophical political concept. The Israeli navy (Heyl Ha ‘Yam) was a very early component of the armed forces (Hagana) but not a priority: The threat of encirclement by the Arab countries seemed much more obvious. But the role of this hastily formed flotilla based in Haifa, the big ex-Palestinian port, the landing place of so many settlers in the 1940s and 1950s, was to ensure the respect of territorial waters and respect for the borders.

After a long period of exile (the diaspora), the Jewish people gradually return to their historic lands, those described by the Bible under the term “Palestine”, and in the meantime become a land populated by Muslim populations. The inevitable happened, and what some consider as a recovery of possession, a “return”, the others see it as an occupation. The problem would seem simple if there was no possibility at first sight to properly coexist an Israeli state, endowed with the best lands in the west, and shreds of scattered territories for a “Muslim Palestine” driven to the desert and the Jordanian big brother. Palestine was for a long time a province of the Ottoman Empire. The latter collapses after the defeat, and the allies receive in “mandates” under the terms of the agreement Picot-Sykes the old territories Turks according to their influence: Syria and Lebanon to the French, Palestine, and a large portion of territory including current Jordan to the English.

Destroyer Eilat in the 1960s
The ex-British Destroyer Eilat in the 1960s.

They welcome the resettlement of persecuted Eastern European Jews, a wave of immigration that began in 1880 with early settlers coming to develop desolate lands. This rebirth of the area west of the Jordan was accompanied by a disappearance of malaria by the drying up of the marshes, and the creation of many agricultural properties, which attracted a large Arab labor force. In 1923, however, Britain decided to separate Palestine into two districts of unequal importance (using the Jordan as a frontier), the territories to the east becoming trans-Jordan, populated by Muslims, and ‘West’ Palestine ‘inhabited mainly by Jews. A movement of Arab nationalism began to take hold and extremists increased their attacks to drive Jews west of the Jordan River. These attacks culminated in the Hebron massacres of 1929 and the “great Arab revolt” in 1936-39, which the British failed to contain. The British military presence, however, was firmly maintained, in the face of growing opposition from the Jews themselves, in order to keep hold of oil wells recently discovered in Trans-Jordan. Jewish nationalists multiplied the attacks in order to obtain independence and the constitution of an independent Jewish state in Palestine.

French-built Israeli MTBs from Chantiers Navals de Meulan
French-built Israeli MTBs from Chantiers Navals de Meulan

From 1939, however, the glances were focused in Europe. The whole continent quickly passed under the Nazi boot and with it the persecutions against Jews from all over the continent, culminating in the Holocaust. After the fall of the Third Reich and the liberation of the camps, the surviving Jews had only one obsession; to leave Europe, part of which fell into the Soviet orbit (and behind Russian, great “pogromists” of the Jewish people), to take refuge in the USA or in the “promised land” then in the process of legalization, Israel. “Palestine” was however still administered by the English when the first massive waves of immigrants arrived from Europe (Ashkenazim). The British suffered increasingly bold attacks from the Irgun, led by its charismatic leader Menachem Begin, less to force the British to withdraw and recognize the sovereignty of an Israeli state than to face more effectively to Arab attacks. In 1947 it was finally done. The United Nations in resolution 181 authorized the creation of the state of Israel, but also that of three independent territories, mostly populated by Arabs, west of the day. For their part, the recently independent Arab nations claimed for Palestine the expulsion of the Jews and the extension of Jordan to the coast. The roots of evil were planted. This territory was again reworked after other wars.
The Israeli navy, born in the war.

Israeli Flag Israel, after having countered several wars waged by its neighbors (the 1948, 1956, 1967, 68, and 1973 wars), currently possesses certainly the most modern and powerful fleet in the Middle East. This force, especially present in the Mediterranean (Haifa and Ashdod), is also in the Red Sea (Eilat). His involvement in the various battles is seen in the following chapter “The Israeli Navy in Operations”. This embryonic force that was formed in 1948 was then composed of a single ex-US coastguard, the USS Northland became Eilat. 350 men were on board, most of them trained during the Second World War aboard Royal Navy ships. Around this ship, some torpedo launchers inherited from the local forces of the RN. His frogmen signed the destruction in 1948 of the Egyptian warship El Amir Farouk in Gaza. In 1956, however, the Israeli means were significantly larger, with the acquisition of two class Z ships in 1955, relatively recent (10 years), three frigates class “River” and two corvettes class “Flower” in 1950 and a DE “Hunt” class in 1956. But it was acquired during the said war of 1956 (the campaign of Sinai), the two newly acquired destroyers allowing to capture in a spectacular way this Egyptian frigate Ibrahim el Awal.

After this campaign, Israel also acquired the first two modernized English submersibles of the S type (Tanin class) in 1958, and three of the T type (Leviathan class) in 1967-68, operational at the time of the Six Day War. After this conflict, and in the 70s, the Israeli Navy had many other well-adapted buildings built: Large missile launchers of the “SAAR” type of German design (Lürssen) and built in France, the 12 SAAR1s in 1967 -69, then the 11 SAAR4 (or Reshef) in 1973-78, and finally the 5 SAAR4.5 quasi- corvettes, equipped with a helicopter embarked in 1980 and 1990. The spearhead of the current Israeli fleet ( after 1990) consists of ultra-modern Eilat-class stealth corvettes built in the USA. Israel has also gradually acquired amphibious buildings: first the three LST class Etzion Geber, in 1965, then the three LCT class Ashdod in 1967, and finally the big Bat Sheva in 1968, ex-South African, in addition to ‘a fleet of small barges type LCT, LCI, LCM, ex-Americans, LCM (6) ex-English and even MFP ex-Germans.

Gal, diesel submarine

In addition, there are light-rocket launcher stars, the Dvora in 1977, designed by IAI (Israeli Aircrat Industry), considered in its day as the star of this lightest type in the world, inspired by the 1973 “Dabur” -77 equipped only with cannons. This prototype was followed by “Super Dvora”, series, from 1987, and until now. In 1990, 4 in service. In addition, the hydrofoils were considered as an interesting base of work and three units were built in the USA on the model of Flagstaff in 1982-85, the Shimrit. These forces were complemented by Kedma class patrol boats (1968), preceded by the Yar 2 in 1956, and class Ophir (3) and Ayah (6) torpedo torpedoes, which were added to three British standard stars. MTB in 1949, 1 of type Fairmile B in 1950 (Haportzim), and three HDML also ex-British, Dror, Saar, and Tirtsa. More recently, Israel has undertaken to replace its five ex-British submarines. To do this it called for German plans and had Vickers build three units of type 206, the Gal, in 1975-76. More recently, it has undertaken a new class of submarines on the same principle (originally built in Ingalls in G.B.), but derived from the German type 212 and finally built in Kiel in 1997, the Dolphin.

Below follow the known and listed strength of the Israeli Navy on the eve of the Six Day War, Yom Kippur, and the Gulf.

Fleet strenght in 1967:
-Two destroyers, Eilat and Yaffa, the DE Haifa, the three submersible Leviathan class and the two Tanin class, the 6 VLT Ayah class, the 3 Ophir class, the 2 Yar class patrol boats, 2 HDML, the three LCT Etzion Geber.

Balance sheetFleet Strenght in 1973:
-Two submarines, the Dolphin and the Leviathan, 12 SAAR1 missile launchers (Mirtach), 3 Ophir VLT class, 2 Yar, 4 Kedma class, 2 HDML, 3 LST class Etzion Geber, 3 class Ashdod, 1 Bat Sheva .

Street strenght for 1990:
-3 submarines Gal class, 12 VLM class SAAR1, 11 class SAAR4, 4 class SAAR4.5, 1 Dvora, 4 Super-Dvora, 3 Shimrit class LM hydrofoil, 24 Dabur patrol boats, 28 Yatush, 4 Kedma, 3 class LST Geber, 3 LCT class Ashdod, 1 Bat Sheva.

Dolphin In 1948, the “fleet” which had a fleet only the name did not have the least impact in the operations. In 1856, it was the two destroyers that caused a sensation: They hired the Egyptian frigate Ibrahim el Awal, who had already been sacked and gunshoted by the French destroyer Cassard following his night raid and his bombing of the Haifa installations. It was the rockets of two Sud-Est Hurricanes, recently purchased from the French, that allowed to stop the frigate net, evacuated and towed to Haifa before being integrated into the service of the Star of David under that name. During the 6-day war, the speed of the Israeli offensive left too little time for the navy to shine. However, during the ensuing period, Eilat attacked and destroyed with two torpedo boats two other Egyptian stars in front of Sinai. In retaliation, they launched their recent Komar-class missile launchers and sank Eilat off Port Said. The latter did not even bother to leave the port and the three SSN-3 Styx hit home. It was the first loss in combat of a major ship by missile launchers. In addition, the Israelis responded with two amphibious raids in Egypt in 1969.

Stealthy Corvettes class SAAR5 (Eilat) in formation, pride of the current Israeli navy.

The Israelis responded by adopting state-of-the-art guidance equipment and developing their IAI Gabriel missiles. The revenge arrived in 1973, on Yom Kippur: 13 VLM equipped with 63 IAI “Gabriel” anti-ship missiles routed in a memorable battle, since it was the first of its kind, a force of 27 missile launchers Komar and Osa Syrians and Egyptians armed with a total of 84 Styx missiles. The famous Gabriel demonstrated efficiency at least as great as the French Exocet a little later in the Falklands and IAI exports benefited greatly. Many Soviet “Styx” missiles were shot down in mid-flight or underwent effective countermeasures. Other actions were successfully carried out by smaller units, such as patrol boats. Thus, in the Gulf of Suez, 5 fast patrol boats sent by bottom in a few minutes no less than 19 trawlers and Egyptian armed patrol boats in the harbor of Ras Galeb. Other operations followed one another using helicopter guidance, tracking and countermeasures combined with missile launcher launches, a veritable naval “blitzkrieg”, and all proved to be a great lesson for foreign navies.

INS Lahav, SAAR 5

INS Tanin, Dolphin 2 class Attack Submarines

SAAR 4.5

Shaldag Mk.3 class Fast Patrol Crafts

During the Lebanon war in 1981, Israeli stars hit and destroyed the PFLP headquarters in Tripoli. Priority was also given to means of support during landings in Beirut. Since then, the role of the patrol officers has been mainly to control any infiltration of PLO agents on its territory. The rise of the Libyan fleet forced the General Staff to rethink its construction program and to consider larger ships than the single missile launchers deployed so far: It was initially the big SAAR 4.5 capable to implement a helicopter, and more recently, with the teaching of the Gulf War, and the Iraqi threat (which commanded no less than 4 frigates and 6 corvettes to Italy shortly before its aggression from Kuwait.) , the three stealth corvettes High-tech class Eilat specially ordered in the US, true “Aegis destroyers” in reduction, and who are, outside the class Lafayette frigates and buildings of the US Navy class Arleigh Burke deployed in the Mediterranean, the most powerful and modern Middle East.

List of israeli Ships

-Destroyer Eilat
-Frigate Haifa
-Eilat class Corvettes
-Tanin class subs
-Leviathan class Subs
-Gal class subs
-Dolphin class subs
-SAAR1 class MMBs
-SAAR4 class MMBs
-SAAR4.5 class MMBs
-Dvora/Super Dvora class MMBs
-Shimrit class Hydropters
-Ayah class MTBs
-Ophir class MTBs
-Yar class patrollers
-Dabur class patrollers
-Kedma class patrollers
-Yatush class patrollers
-Etzion Geber class assault ships
-Ashdod class LCT
-Bat Sheva class LCT