A few months later, the INS Rahav will join the fleet. The sixth new generation Dolphin is still being manufactured at a German shipyard.
The navy has been working with Israeli defense companies to develop a range of sea and underwater combat technologies, from radars to electronic warfare capabilities.
Despite budget cuts, the IDF is in the midst of a multi-year force buildup process, and the navy is going through an unprecedented phase marked by weapons upgrades, the source said.
“People are staying up late into the night around here, because a lot of new technology is being introduced,” he said.
Innovations include a new long-range air defense system that is being installed on missile ships this year.
“From now on we’ll have the ability of destroying incoming threats dozens of kilometers away. It won’t be like before, when we were without independent air defenses. We won’t have to trouble the air force,” the source said.
Coastal electronic sensors that feed data to navy regional command and control centers are also being improved. Engineers from the navy’s Weapons Systems Department – some of them former sailors with operational experience – are managing the armament projects.
The navy prefers to purchase existing defense products and tailor them according to needs, the source said.
But if this is not possible, the navy works with the Defense Ministry to develop new weapons systems from scratch.
The Weapons Systems Department, tasked with locating technological solutions to combat needs, often stretches the limits of its ability and finds a willing partner in Israeli defense companies, pushing technological innovation to the brink.
“This is how we safeguard our relative edge over our enemies,” said the source.
As Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the eastern Mediterranean is filling up with large-scale natural gas drilling, the navy is expecting the government to approve a budget that will add four missile ships, drones, unmanned sea vessels and patrol air craft to protect it.
The zone is the size of the State of Israel, and it will up be to the navy to defend this vital national asset from terrorist threats and hostile states.
“We’re being called up to tackle a challenging mission,” the source said, referring to the EEZ.
“We’ll need to be able to send a ship to inspect suspicious traffic there. There’s nothing like personal contact.
The ship must be able to arrive and direct its cannons at suspicious movements.”
Without this kind of security, there will be no international investment in the gas drilling, the source warned.
The navy has been hailed by defense chiefs for launching classified, toppriority missions far from Israel’s shores.
“We’ll provide whatever is needed so that the mission’s goal is met. Even if we need to be very creative, on the border of the imaginary,” the source said.
“The more exotic things don’t blow up,” he added, hinting at the most advanced assets.
Additional innovations include the phased array radar system, in which thousands of small antennas are linked up together to face four directions and direct an electromagnetic ray in various directions, instead of spinning around like a traditional radar.
The navy developed these systems together with the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, and Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries.
“We must be ahead of the other side. It’s always good to keep the gap as large as possible,” the source continued.
Most important, he stressed, is the personnel that makes up the Israel Navy.
“We have a family-like connection, making the grinding work easier. We relate to each other at eye level in the navy’s culture, irrespective of rank. We invest in our people and in our technology.
“The defense industries have been a caring partner, and go above and beyond for us,” he said.