Israel on Wednesday received its most advanced warship, a German-made Sa’ar-6-class corvette equipped with sensors, weapons and defensive systems that will aid the navy in protecting the country’s natural gas rigs and trade routes amid sky-high tensions with Iran.
The vessel, dubbed “the Shield,” was the first of four that Israel is set to receive over the coming year. It will enhance Israel’s ability to protect gas rigs close to Lebanon from missiles and other attacks.
“The welcome discovery of the gas fields off Israel’s shore made it necessary to create a plan that will provide a protective envelope,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at ceremony at the port.
STATUS UPDATE: We just leveled up our fleet. pic.twitter.com/uWEJVsDaFw
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 2, 2020
The gas rigs are a likely target for Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group — which has threatened the rigs in the past — and especially now in light of Tehran’s vow to retaliate for Friday’s assassination of the so-called “father” of its nuclear weapons program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which it alleged Israel was behind.
“The Iranians are looking for ‘prestige’ targets like these, that can be hit with low casualties, meaning – they may hope – less chance of escalation,” an Israeli security official told the Reuters news wire. “The question is whether Hezbollah would strike now.”
The nearly 2,000-ton Sa’ar-6 is fitted with two maritime versions of the Iron Dome missile defense system to shoot down overhead projectiles as well as a Barak-8 battery to intercept cruise and ballistic missiles.
Hezbollah’s considerable missile stockpile, thought to comprise around 100,000 projectiles, is believed to have both kinds: the Russian Yakhont cruise missiles and Iranian-made Khalij Fars rockets. The ship, which is the length of about a five-story building, can launch and recover helicopters.