[Freemanlist2] New Israeli Naval Vehicles Under Development -Colonel Meir Ben Zuk
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Sun Jun 24 00:12:03 CDT 2012
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New Israeli Naval Vehicles Under Development
The Head of the Navy’s Weapons Department, Colonel Meir Ben Zuk, talks about the next missile boat, unmanned surface vessels, anti-submarine weapons, and the tangible threat from the Syrian coast – the Yakhont Russian-made, anti-ship cruise missile
Amir Rapaport 23/6/2012
The Navy has renounced its plan to procure Lockheed Martin’s LCS (Littoral
Combat Ship) with a 2,000 ton displacement. Negotiations stopped after the
company cut back on the project and the price per ship dramatically
increased. The Navy then examined the possibility of building a
similar-sized vessel in Israeli shipyards based on the German MEKO A-100
corvette, but this idea was also dropped.
What are the Navy’s current plans?
“The Navy is tasked with various missions, the main one being the defense of
Israel’s sea lanes and ensuring freedom of maritime movement in wartime. We’re
building our force in response to these needs,” says Col. Meir Ben Zuk, head
of the Navy’s Weapons Department.
“The Navy’s capabilities in routine situations and emergencies can be
maximized only if naval platforms are in the area – air power alone is
insufficient to ensure sovereignty. However, we still lack the required
number of platforms and the current layout is outdated. The fleet must be
upgraded. The geopolitical arena is also changing dramatically. Countries
whose navies stagnated over the last 30-40 years are now equipped with naval
weapons on par with the arms race in the Middle East.”
But size is not always an advantage at sea.
“True, size can be a disadvantage. First, there’s the high cost of ships and
their maintenance. Nevertheless, our needs demand minimal growth at least. A
naval platform has to carry a critical mass of munitions and assemble a
real-time picture for command and defense.
“The Israeli Navy doesn’t operate like other fleets, where various types of
vessels are constructed for a wide range of assignments. The Israeli Navy is
based on versatile ships capable of performing multiple tasks
simultaneously. This is our guideline in choosing the type of vessel for
upgrading the fleet. At present, we are looking at several options. In the
past, the Navy believed in a package of fighting systems that led to a ship
with a displacement of more than 2,000 tons. Given today’s budget
constraints, we’re currently looking at ships that are the same size as our
Don’t large vessels make for easier targets?
“Not necessarily. Ships have many defense layers that provide a high level
Does that mean that the plans for the MEKO A-100 are no longer relevant?
“Correct. The MEKO A-100 is a 2,200 ton corvette.”
What about building a new vessel in an Israeli shipyard with a special grant
from the Ministry of Finance that would kick-start shipbuilding in Israel?
“We’re examining all possibilities.”
Is there still a chance that the next missile boat will be built by Ingalls
Shipbuilding and financed with US foreign military aid?
“As I said, we’re examining all the options.”
Before becoming Chief of the Weapons Department, Ben Zuk served in various
command positions on surface vessels and was head of the Navy’s Finance
Department (in addition to being a naval officer, he is also an economist).
The weapons department is responsible for the operational specifications of
You mentioned a maritime arms race in the Middle East. Was this in reference
to the Yakhont supersonic, shore-to-sea missile that Syria procured from
“This missile definitely poses a challenge. It’s the best weapon of its kind
in the Middle East because of its velocity and advanced seeker technology.”
Isn’t IAI’s Barak 8 anti-missile, which the Navy is currently absorbing,
supposed to answer this threat?
“It’s not a question of an answer against a specific threat. The Navy views
all threats with the utmost seriousness and continues to develop a wide
range of defense systems. This has been and will remain our goal.”
Last year, there were reports that Hamas smuggled a radar-seeking, anti-ship
missile – the Chinese-made C-704 – into the Gaza Strip. Has the Navy
prepared for this threat as well?
“Naturally, we know about the radar-seeking anti-ship missile bound for
Gaza. After all, we were the ones who captured it. The C-704 was supposed to
extend Iran’s military ambitions by providing terror organizations with
Can you state with certainty that such weapons are currently deployed along
The Navy is currently equipped with Rafael’s Protector. Do you intend to
expand USV operations?
“The Navy believes that USVs can be used for a wide range of assignments.
They are highly effective platforms and their technology is progressing
Are you planning to replace the AS-565 naval helicopter on the next missile
“Yes. Staff work is underway in coordination with the air force to develop a
helicopter that has a greater range and doesn’t require a larger flight
Although the Navy is considered a small branch (some even equate it with the
size of an average air force base), Israel’s security industries are working
on a number of projects for the country’s fleet.
“The Navy has very close ties with the industry,” acknowledges Col. Ben Zuk.
“While it’s true that we are limited in size, the local industries have made
the leap and are engaged in hi-tech projects that they believe will also
prove marketable overseas. The fact that this is in-house technology gives
the Navy an added advantage.”
The local defense industries are also helping the Navy in underwater
warfare. “Countermeasures to submarine threats are being developed at a
rapid pace,” explains Ben Zuk.
What about the development of a staring radar (that permanently scans an
area without a narrow moving beam) for naval needs?
This is technology with universal applications. The Navy can use staring
radar systems in areas it wants to observe for long periods.”
Does the Navy see itself as an integral part of ground warfare? Is naval
firepower involved in jointness with ground forces?
“The Navy is constantly examining its capabilities of where it can
contribute and be integrated, especially in light of its sea depth and high
degree of survivability. The Navy was instrumental in Operation Cast Lead in
target elimination and ground support. Inter-arm cooperation is improving
and is part of the ongoing learning process.”
Is the Navy taking significant steps to protect the offshore energy reserves
that were recently discovered?
“The Navy is capable of protecting the energy reserves. A direct link exists
between the amount invested in this task and the level of defense we can
provide. A lot of planning has gone into this, and we’re currently waiting
for a decision on the size of the budget that will be allocated to the
The interview was published in IsraelDefense Issue Eight
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
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