Israel Sends Naval Engineers to Germany to Help in Ship Deal

The navy is acquiring four ships to protect the country’s natural gas sites and give the force versatility.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
An Israel Navy missile boat.
An Israel Navy missile boat.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The navy has sent engineers to Germany to consult in the construction of ships to protect Israel’s natural gas drilling sites off the Mediterranean coast.

In May, the Defense Ministry agreed to buy four ships from Germany to protect the gas platforms, including the Tamar site, which is already in production, and the much larger Leviathan site, which is in development.

Germany is expected to deliver the boats, built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, within five years. After a German grant, each ship will cost Israel about $90 million, a senior Israeli naval officer told Haaretz. The engineers were sent last month.

Based on an Israeli plan, the hull and electrical systems will be built in the shipyard, while the combat systems will be installed in Israel. The officer said one reason for this approach was concern about possible boycotts against Israel in the future.

“The subject of the boycott is becoming a trend that countries are being swept into,” the officer said, mentioning last summer’s Gaza war. During the fighting, Spain announced a temporary halt of arm sales and military technology, while Britain reconsidered military export licenses to Israel.

According to British media reports, Britain is providing parts for Israel’s Hermes drones and Merkava tanks.

Israel’s Barak 8 system of ground-to-air missiles will be installed on the ships with Israeli-made electronic combat systems, the naval officer said. There will also be landing facilities for the Sikorsky Seahawk helicopters that the navy is expected to buy.

The navy is currently using 11 ships, so the four German-built vessels will be a significant addition. As far back as the 1990s, the navy crafted a plan to have new ships built, but it was scrapped when it turned out the price tag would reach about $400 million each. But now the navy needs to protect the drilling platforms.

“The concept for the vessel and its designation is for economic waters, but we aren't dealing here with an American fleet. There are 11 ships so we need versatility,” he said. “On the day we need to attack [with the ships], they’ll know what to do.”

The German-Israeli deal came about after diplomatic contacts — Germany agreed to provide a grant for the acquisition, but last year, due to the rupture of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Germany withheld the grant. As a result, the Defense Ministry launched a bidding process to make the ships at a maximum price of $100 million each.

When the Germans came back with their latest offer, the bidding process was scrapped and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems was chosen — producing the $90 million price tag after the grant.

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