The Israeli Navy has officially welcomed to its fleet the first Sa’ar 6 class missile corvette, the INS Magen, which it describes as its “newest and most advanced ship yet.” The warship will provide Israel with a major boost in its ability to project naval power out into the Mediterranean and maybe even beyond.
The flag transfer ceremony on November 11, 2020, took place at Kiel in northern Germany where the first ship was built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems over a three-year period. Magen is the first of four in its class being built for the Israeli Navy. The corvette is due to arrive in Israel in December, after a period of training off the German coast.
Israel signed the contract for the four new corvettes in May 2015 and construction is being handled jointly by German Naval Yards Holdings and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. Work on the future INS Magen began in February 2018 and the ship was launched 15 months later. An official naming ceremony for INS Magen took place in Kiel in May 2019.
Compared to the Israeli Navy’s Sa’ar 5 class, American-built corvettes acquired in the mid-1990s and previously the largest in the service’s inventory, the Sa’ar 6 ships are considerably bigger. They measure 295 feet long and have a displacement of 1,900 long tons fully loaded, while the Sa’ar 5 is 281 feet long and has a displacement of 1,255 long tons fully loaded.
The Sa’ar 6 warships are derived from the German Navy’s own Braunschweig class corvettes but have substantial differences centered around the integration of weaponry and sensors of Israeli origin.
For a corvette, the Sa’ar 6 is unusually well-armed, with different surface-to-air missiles for area and point defense, anti-ship missiles, guns, and torpedoes. In comparison, the previous Sa’ar 5 class has a single type of surface-to-air missile, two quadruple anti-ship missile launchers, and a Mk 15 Phalanx 20mm close-in weapon system (CIWS).
The Sa’ar 6’s anti-ship missile launchers will be fitted amidships and are expected to be loaded with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Gabriel V, which has an active radar seeker and is optimized for use in cluttered littoral environments. These missiles are reportedly already in service on the Sa’ar 5 class corvettes and are thought to have a range of up to 248 miles.
In October 2020, Israel’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing what it said was the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship missile from a Sa’ar 5 corvette. This may well have been an improved Gabriel V, featuring an active radar seeker and a two-way data link. If so, this would be the latest iteration of a family of weapons first used in combat in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Two types of air defense weapons are also provided. These are Rafael’s Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles, launched from 32 vertical launch cells on the Sa’ar 6, plus a pair of Rafael C-Dome systems, each armed with 20 Tamir missiles. While the Barak-8 is intended to engage targets out to around 60 miles, including supersonic anti-ship missiles, the C-Dome, a version of the land-based Iron Dome, is designed to intercept and destroy lower-flying aircraft, anti-ship missiles, as well as short-range rockets and artillery shells.