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Israeli Navy
Israeli Sea Corps Soldiers.jpg
Cadets from the Israeli Naval Academy, in December 2007.
Founded 1948
Country Israel State of Israel
Allegiance Israel Israel Defense Forces
Type Navy

3 corvettes (Sa'ar 5-class)
10 missile boats
4 submarines (Dolphin-class)
42 patrol boats
6 support ships

9,500 Active
10,000 Reserve
Part of Israel Defense Forces
Garrison/HQ HaKirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Motto(s) "Open Sea, Safe Land"
Engagements 1948 Arab-Israeli War
War over Water
Six-Day War
War of Attrition
Yom Kippur War
1982 Lebanon War
1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict
Second Intifada
2006 Lebanon War
Blockade of the Gaza Strip
Gaza War
Commander-in-Chief Aluf Ram Rothberg
Naval ensign Naval Ensign of Israel.svg

The Israeli Navy (Hebrew: חיל הים הישראלי‎, Heil HaYam HaYisraeli) is the naval warfare service arm of the Israel Defense Forces, operating primarily in the Mediterranean Sea theater as well as the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea theater. The current commander in chief of the Israeli Navy is Aluf Ram Rothberg.


INS Eilat, ex-Royal Navy Z Class destroyer sold to Israel in 1955.

The origins of the Israeli Navy lay in the founding of the Betar Naval Academy, a Jewish naval training school established in Civitavecchia, Italy, in 1934 by the Revisionist Zionist movement under the direction of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, with the agreement of Benito Mussolini. The Academy trained cadets from all over Europe, Palestine and South Africa and produced some of the future commanders of the Israeli Navy. In September 1937, the training ship Sarah I visited Haifa and Tel Aviv as part of a Mediterranean tour.

In 1938, encouraged by the Jewish Agency, Dr. Shlomo Bardin founded the Marine High School in Bosmat, the Technion's Junior Technical College. 1943 witnessed the founding of the Palyam, the naval branch of the Palmach, whose training was undertaken at the maritime school. The Jewish merchant marine was also raised, operating the SS Tel-Aviv and cargo ships such as the Atid.

In 1942, eleven hundred Haganah volunteers joined the Royal Navy, mostly in technical roles (12 of them were officers by the nomination agreement of the Jewish Agency with the Royal Navy). A few reached sea service and combat service. Two of them served with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA), one of whom was Edmond Wilhelm Brillant and the other Zvi Avidror. With the end of the Second World War, Palyam members took part in clandestine immigration activities, bringing Europe's Jews to Palestine, as well as commando actions against Royal Navy deportation ships. Royal Navy volunteers, meanwhile, rejoined the Haganah.

During the last months of British Mandate in Palestine, the former Royal Navy volunteers started working on the captured clandestine immigration ships (known as the Fleet of Shadows) in Haifa harbor, salvaged a few and pressed them into service. These were to become the Navy's first ships and saw service in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

At the outset of the 1948 war and with the founding of the IDF, the Israeli Navy consisted of four former Aliyah Bet ships impounded in Haifa harbor. These ships were refurbished by a newly formed naval repair facility with the assistance of two private shipbuilding and repair companies. In October 1948, a submarine chaser was purchased from the United States. With the founding of the IDF in early 1948, the Israeli Navy was therefore formed from a core of the following personnel:[1][2]

  • Royal Navy Volunteers with the technical skills and discipline acquired from the Royal Navy, though with no active sea service and experience on Royal Navy Ships.
  • Palyam members who had led the clandestine and immigration effort, but had no sea background in navigation or leading a ship into a battle. The captains of clandestine and immigration ships were Greek and Italian, while Palyam personnel were commanding the ship under instructions from the Haganah. Ike Aharonowitch, captain of the Exodus and a Jew, was the exception rather than the rule.
  • Merchant Marine captains and chief engineers, possessing navigation skills but lacking combat skills.
  • Jewish volunteers[3][4] from the U.S. Navy andRoyal Navy , such as Commander Paul Shulman[5] of the U.S. Navy , and Commanders Solomon and Allen Burk of the Royal Navy.[6] These, however, were often discriminated against and their experience wasted by a navy command that was based on the Palmach and its various branches. This resulted in odd situations where unskilled officers from the Palyam were in command of far more experienced naval officers.

During the war, the warships served on coastal patrol duties and bombarded Arab targets on land, including Egyptian coastal installations in and around the Gaza area all the way to Port Said.[7] The Israeli Navy also engaged the Egyptian Navy at sea during Operation Yoav, and the Egyptian Navy's flagship, the Emir Farouk, was sunk in an operation by Israeli naval commandos.

Torpedo boats of the Israeli Navy. Built by Chantiers Navals de Meulan, France.

To make matters worse, Palyam personnel often resisted efforts to instill order, discipline and rank in the newly formed service. Mess rooms were initially shared by both officers and enlisted men. Ships possessed a captain with nautical skills, but also a commanding officer regarded as political. This would cause a great deal of debate between veterans of the Palyam, Royal Navy volunteers from the Haganah and U.S. Navy Machal volunteers about what form the Navy should take.[1][8][9] Commander Allen Burk is reputed to have said, out of despair, "You cannot make naval officers from cowboys".[2]

RN Captain Ashe Lincoln [1], who was Jewish, advised PM Ben-Gurion to purchase corvettes, frigates, destroyers, torpedo-boats, and patrol boats to build up the Israeli Navy power. For that sake he urged Ben-Gurion to consult with professional navy advisers. This resulted in instructions to contact U.S. Navy advisors, mainly Commander Paul Shulman from the U.S. Navy.

The Israeli Navy suffered from a lack of professional command during its early days.[1] Gershon Zak, head of the IDF "Sea Service", was a teacher and bureaucrat without any relevant experience. Having never been recruited into the IDF, Zak was a civilian and had no official rank. The early days of theIsraeli Navy were therefore characterized by political infighting, as many groups and individuals jockeyed for power. Palyam politics blocked the nomination of Paul Shulman (a Jewish U.S. Navy officer with a rank of Commander who volunteered for the Israeli Navy) as Navy-Commander in Chief and he resigned in 1949. The first Navy-Commander in Chief awarded the rank of Aluf was Shlomo Shamir.[1]

The conclusion of the 1948 war afforded the navy the time to build up its strength. Beginning in the early 1950s the navy purchased frigates, torpedo boats, destroyers, and eventually submarines. The material build-up was accompanied by the training of Israeli Navy officers in Royal Navy academies in the UK and Malta, as well as in France.

Three distinct periods characterize the history of the Israeli Navy:

  • Foundation and early days
  • The destroyers' age
  • The missile boats era, beginning in 1965 and bearing fruit during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.[10][11]

Until 1967 the Naval Headquarters were located at Stella-Marris, on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa. After the Six-Day War it was relocated to the Kirya in Tel Aviv, next to IDF Headquarters.

Yom Kippur War

In the main engagement in its history, during the Yom Kippur War the Israeli Navy sank five Syrian ships without a loss during the Battle of Latakia. As a result the remainder of the Syrian Navy remained in port for the rest of the conflict.[12]

Chain of Command

The Israeli Navy is small compared to other Navies and the officers chain of command is as follows with respect to Royal – Navy / United States:[13]

Commissioned Officers
Insignia IDF Navy aluf.png IDF Navy tat aluf.png IDF Navy aluf mishne.png IDF Navy sgan aluf.png IDF rav seren gold-2.svg IDF Navy seren.png IDF Navy segen.png IDF Navy segen mishne.svg
Israeli Navy Aluf Tat-Aluf Aluf-Mishne Sgan-Aluf Rav-Seren Seren Segen Segen-Mishne
US Navy Rear Admiral
(upper half)
Rear Admiral
(lower half)
Captain Commander Lt. Commander Lieutenant Lieutenant
Junior Grade
Royal Navy Rear-Admiral Commodore Captain Commander Lt-Commander Lieutenant Sub-Lieutenant Midshipman
Army Ranks Major- General Brigadier -General Colonel Lt- Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant 2nd Lieutenant
Non-Commissioned Officers Enlisted
Insignia IDF Ranks Ranag.svg IDF Ranks Ranam.svg IDF Ranks Rasab.svg IDF Ranks Rasam.svg IDF Ranks Rasar.svg IDF Ranks Rasal.svg IDF Ranks Samar.svg IDF Ranks Samal.svg IDF Ranks Rav turai.svg none
Israeli Navy Rav-Nagad Rav-Nagad
Rav-Samal Samal Rishon Samal Rav-Turay Turay
U.S. Navy Command
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Senior Chief
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
1st Class
Petty Officer
2nd Class
Petty Officer
3rd Class
Seaman Seaman
Royal Navy Warrant Officer
Class 1
Warrant Officer
Class 1
Warrant Officer
Class 2
Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer (none) Leading Rate (none) Able Seaman (none)

Sleeve rank of Israeli Navy Commander-in-Chief is a rank of honor. This started under special permission from Lt. General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (then chief of staff of the IDF) and allows the Navy Commander-in-Chief to have a sleeve rank of Vice Admiral which is equal to Lt.General as the rank of the IDF Chief of Staff. However de facto the rank of Israeli Navy Commander-in-Chief is Rear Admiral and the gesture given to the navy is ceremonial only when meeting foreign commanding officers.

Same resolution, as above mentioned,applies to Commodore ceremonial only the sleeve rank is Rear – Admiral however by the IDF hierarchy and chain of command he remains de facto a commodore.


Sa'ar 5 class missile сorvettes of the Israeli Navy

The emblem of the Haifa naval base is two arrows – one signifying the Missile Boats Flotilla and the other the Submarine Flotilla.
  • Atlit – home to Shayetet 13, the navy's elite commando unit.
  • Ashdod – mainly a base for Patrol Boats Squadron 916.
The emblem of the Ashdod naval base is two opposing arrows.
Eilat naval base was founded in 1951 and has been responsible for the Israeli Navy's Red Sea theater since 1981, when the Red Sea Naval Command Center was withdrawn from Sharm el-Sheikh in accordance with the Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty.
The emblem of the Eilat naval base represents the red roofs of Eilat.
  • The Naval Training base – located in Haifa, contains the submarine operations school, the missile boat operations school and the naval command school. The naval training base also functions as the Israeli Naval Academy.
The emblem of the Haifa training base is an owl, symbolizing wisdom and hard learning.
  • Mamtam – IT, processing and computing.
Mamtam is a small unit responsible for all Israeli Navy signal and IT systems, both logistic and operational. The soldiers that serve there are mainly programmers and university graduates in engineering, computer science and other technological professions.
  • Naval Shipyards
  • Navy Headquarters – HaKirya, Tel Aviv.


Structure of the Israel Navy

3rd Flotilla

The Missile Boats Flotilla, based at Haifa.

  • 34th Anti-Submarine Squadron פלגה נגד צוללות (ShaNeTz = shayetet neged tzolalot)
Unit's objectives
  • Protecting Israeli commerce at sea from foreign fleets.
  • Preventing a possible naval blockade of Israeli ports during wartime.
  • Blockading enemy ports at wartime.

7th Flotilla

The Submarine Flotilla, an elite volunteer unit founded in 1959.

Unit's objectives

For security reasons applicants with dual citizenship, must now officially renounce all other citizenships to be accepted into the submarine service training program.[15]

13th Flotilla

Shayetet 13, or Flotilla 13, is an elite naval commando unit which specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage operations, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and boarding. It is among the most highly trained and secretive units in the Israeli military.

Yaltam divers in training


Salvage and underwater works unit. Formed as the damage control branch of the Navy Shipyards, the unit later incorporated experienced Flotilla-13 divers.


The Corps' relies on its Naval Intelligence Division for naval intelligence.

Present Fleet

A Sa'ar 5-class corvette near Tel Aviv on Israeli Independence Day, 2009

The Sa'ar 4.5 class missile boat INS Hetz, 1991

The Sa'ar 4 class missile boat INS Nitzachon, 2010

A Dolphin class submarine

A Dabur class patrol boat

A Super Dvora Mk III class patrol boat

A Nachshol class patrol boat

A Morena-class rigid-hulled inflatable boat


Sa'ar 5-class

Missile boats

Sa'ar 4.5-class

  • INS Romach, pronounced [ʁomaχ] (Lance, 1981) – Active
  • INS Keshet (Bow, 1982) – Active
  • INS Hetz, pronounced [ˈχet͡s] (Arrow, 1991) – Active
  • INS Kidon (Javelin, 1995) (Sa'ar 4-class built in 1974 and converted to Saar 4.5 class in 1994) – Active
  • INS Tarshish (1995) – (Sa'ar 4-class built in 1975 and converted to Saar 4.5 class in 1998) – Active
  • INS Yaffo (Jaffa, 1998) (Sa'ar 4-class built in 1975 and converted to Saar 4.5 class in 1998) – Active
  • INS Herev, pronounced [χeʁev] (Sword, 2002) – Active
  • INS Sufa (Storm, 2003) – Active

Sa'ar 4-class

  • INS Nitzachon (Victory, 1978) – Active
  • INS Atzmaut (Independence, 1979) – Active


Dolphin class

  • INS Dolphin (1999)
  • INS Livyathan (Whale, 1999)
  • INS Tekumah (Revival, 2000)

AIP Dolphin 2 class:

  • INS Tannin (Crocodile, delivered in 2012)
  • INS Rahav (Demon, delivery expected in 2013)
  • Name not assigned yet. Ordered 21 March 2012

In 2005 Israel ordered two additional submarines, one of which was delivered in 2012 and the other of which is expected to be delivered in 2013.[16][17] These two new boats are similar to the highly advanced German U212 submarine and feature an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. Israel and Germany signed a contract for the sixth submarine 11 March 2012.[18][19]

Patrol Boats

  • Dabur class patrol boats – 15 active, built by Sewart Seacraft and IAI-Ramta, adopted in 1973–77, numbers in a 850–920 range.
  • Dvora – 9 active, adopted from 1988, numbers 811–819
  • Super Dvora Mk II – 4 active, adopted from 1996, numbers 820–823
  • Super Dvora Mk III – 10 active, another 3 on order.[20]
  • Shaldag class fast patrol boats – 5 active
  • Shaldag Mk II – 5 ordered
  • Nachshol class patrol boats (Stingray Interceptor-2000) – built by Stingray Marine – 2 active, 3 adopted from 1997–98
  • Rafael Protector USV Unmanned Naval Patrol Vehicles

Support ships

  • INS Bat Yam
  • INS Bat Galim
  • INS Drom Afrika
  • INS Keshet – cargo ship
  • INS Nir – costal tender ship
  • INS Nahariya – coastal tender ship
  • Ashdod class landing ships
  • 78-ton tugs – built in Israel

Commando boats

  • Dolphin type underwater crafts
  • Maiale (pig) type underwater crafts
  • Snunit boats
  • Zaharon boats
  • Moulit boats
  • Morena rigid-hulled inflatable boats


Aircraft operated by the Israeli Navy, even when including on-board Navy mission specialists, are flown and maintained by Israeli Air Force personnel and are part of the air force command structure.

Unmanned aerial vehicles


  • Boeing Harpoon – anti-ship missile
  • Barak 1 – Ship Point Defense Missile System
  • IAI Gabriel – sea-to-sea missile
  • Popeye Turbo – Cruise Missile believed to be carried on Dolphin Class Submarines. May carry nuclear warheads.
  • Typhoon – Naval Optronic Stabilized Weapon Platforms
  • NAVLAR Artillery Rocket System
  • EL/M-2221 STGR – Search, Track & Guidance/Gunnery Radar
  • EL/M-2228S AMDR – Automatic Missile Detection Radar
  • EL/M-2228X SGRS – Surveillance & Gunnery Radar System
  • EL/M-2238 STAR -Surveillance & Threat Alert Radar
  • EL/M-2226 ACSR – Advanced Coastal Surveillance Radar


Patrol boats near Eilat

In a radical revamp of its surface fleet modernization program, the Israel Navy has shelved long-held plans to purchase Lockheed Martin-produced Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) due to their ever-rising cost estimate, as well as exercising a fallback option involving corvettes built by Northrop Grumman. Instead, sources say, the Navy is pushing to establish a combat shipbuilding industry through customized, locally built versions of a German corvette design.[23] Currently in an exploration phase, the concept calls for a stretched, approximately 2,200-ton version of the MEKO A-100 built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), the Hamburg-based consortium building two Dolphin-class submarines for the Israel Navy. Countries that are building or now operating the 1,650-ton German-designed corvette include Malaysia and Poland. If carried out, the ships would likely be built locally by Israel Shipyards (which built the Sa'ar 4.5 class and earlier INS ships), with IAI acting as prime systems integrator.

The Israeli Navy also plans to buy four more Super Dvora and two Shaldag patrol boats, and has ordered three additional submarines from Germany. The Navy is also building up an amphibious assault capability to deliver battalion-sized infantry forces and is in discussion with the Ground Forces Command to decide which battalions will be trained in landing operations.[24]

The Navy is considering buying two corvettes which would be specifically designed for the navy's needs, and which would be outfitted with electronic warfare devices, radar, and weapons systems. They would be given an extended air defense capability, making them the world's first air defense corvettes. Israel planned to order each ship for $300 million from the German shipbuilding company Blohm + Voss. After the United Arab Emirates-owned Mar group announced that it would buy the majority of shares in the company, the Israeli defense establishment began to look into the potential outcomes of buying ships from an Arab-owned company.[25][26] It was later reported that Israel is was leaning towards producing 2 modified versions of the Sa'ar 5-class corvette domestically.[27]

In November 2012, it was reported that Israel is mulling a deal to purchase four Incheon class frigates from South Korea, which would be built jointly by Hyundai Heavy Industries and Israel Shipyards.[28]

List of Commanders

Ram Rothberg, commander in chief of the Israeli navy

Source: Jewish Virtual Library[29]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Anat Kidron MA Thesis, Israeli Navy Year of Foundation". Haifa University Israel. October 2000. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The last Battle of the Destroyer INS Eilat by Commander Yitzhak Shushan". Ma’ariv Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  3. "MACHAL Overseas Volunteers In Israel’s War of Independence Page 28". MOD IDF. 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  4. "A Tiny, but Hard-Hitting Battle Force". By David Hanovice North American Volunteers In Israel's War of Independence. 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  5. "Paul Schulman". NY Times. 18 May 1994. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  6. Known Decorations for Bravery Awarded to Machalniks who served in World War II
  8. "The last Battle of the Destroyer INS Eilat by Commander Yitzhak Shushan". Ma'ariv Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  9. Commander Shlomo, Ya'akobson a Hagana Veteran of the Royal Navy (1997). "Betaltala". MOD House. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  10. "BOATS OF CHERBOURG Abraham Rabinovich". Bluejacket Books ISBN 1-55750-714-7. 1973. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  11. "The Missile Boat War The 1973 Arab-Israeli War at Sea". By Dave Schueler. 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009. [dead link]
  12. "The Battle of Latakia". Jewish Virtual Library. 
  13. "IDF Ranks". IDF Spoke Man. 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  14. "Israel seeks sixth Dolphin in light of Iranian 'threat'". 1 October 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  17. "Israel takes delivery of 4th submarine in Germany" Jerusalem Post, Published: 3 May 2012
  21. נושאת מזל"טים: חיל הים כובש את השמיים
  22.[dead link]
  23. "Israel Eyes Locally Built Warship". 29 June 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  24. Katz, Yaakov (22 September 2009). "Navy bolsters its amphibious capability". Jerusalem Post.
  25. Egozi, Arie (24 June 2010). "Navy to buy ships from Arab-owned company?". YNet News. Retrieved 8 September 2011
  27. Azulai, Yuval (26 August 2010). "Military mulls NIS 1b plan to build warships". Globes. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  29. "Israel Navy Commanders-in-Chief". Retrieved 1 June 2010. 

External links

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