Report: Israel’s Navy Seeks $760 Million Gas Field Defense Force
Israel’s navy is scrambling to assemble a force of new warships worth $760 million to protect the country’s natural gas fields in the Mediterranean as the production from the first field discovered in 2009 went onstream this past weekend, reports UPI. The navy wants 2-4 patrol-class vessels as well as unmanned aerial vehicles to detect threats such a suicide frogmen and anti-ship missiles.
Due to defense budget cuts Israel is hoping that the U.S. will foot some of the bill, a plausible expectation considering that an American company–Houston’s Noble Energy — is operating the gas fields.
According to UPI, the navy wants four 1,200-ton, long-endurance warships equipped with defensive missile systems to intercept anti-ship missiles, possessed by Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, aimed at production platforms.
Naval officials say the Defense Ministry has been in touch with several foreign shipbuilders, but no decision has been made on contracts.
UPI adds that to cover the area, which will have to cover an area larger than the size of the state itself, the navy is expected to acquire long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles. Another possibility is the missile-armed, remote-controlled robotic boat developed by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Haifa. Military sources say the craft, with a maximum speed of 42 miles per hour, could be useful against suicide boats manned by Hezbollah or Iranian Revolutionary Guard teams.
“The gas fields spanning a large area west of the coast of Israel significantly broaden the challenges facing the Israeli navy,” the Defense Ministry said in a recent a statement. “The protection of these strategic assets requires increased resources and extensive preparations.”