Surface Forces: Saar Gets Suicide Boat Protection


August 27, 2016: Israel is spending $100 million to equip its 19 Saar 4.5, 5 and 6 corvettes with the latest version of the 76mm Oto Melara rapid fire cannon. The Israeli Navy has wanted these guns for a long time and American sailors who used them on the U.S. Perry class frigates spoke highly of them as did sailors in navies throughout the region. Some 40 other navies have used these innovative naval guns and all have been satisfied. The 76mm Oto Melara has a 4.7 meter (15.5 foot) barrel and is operated remotely. The gun has an 80 round magazine under the gun turret and can fire up to 80 round a minute at surface targets. That’s apparently what the Israelis want the 76mm gun for, especially because a primary threat is many (up to dozens) of speedboats equipped with missile or packed with explosives for suicide attacks. This is a tactic favored by Iran and its Lebanese franchise Hezbollah. Israel is about to become energy independent because of recently discovered natural gas deposits off the coast. Iran and Hezbollah have already made noise about destroying these offshore facilities.

The 76mm gun can hit small targets (including cruise missiles) out to 20 kilometers (or twice that using a smaller guided shell). The standard 76mm shell is 12.5 kg (28 pounds), which is capable of accurately hitting and destroying small speedboats. Thus the gun could hit about 60 targets in a few minutes.

The fire control systems on all the Saar corvettes are being upgraded in general and this will include the ability to handle the new 76mm gun. The Saar 4.5 is a 490 ton ship that is 61.7 meters (203 feet) long. Armament varied but for the eight used by the Israeli navy it was eight anti-ship missiles, 32 anti-aircraft missiles, a Phalanx anti-missile 20mm autocannon, a 25mm autocannon two 20mm autocannon, two 12.7mm machine-guns, a helicopter, and an extensive set of electronics (for a ship of that size). The Saar 5 and Saar 6 were similar in concept but larger (1,100 tons and 1,600 tons respectively).


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