Naval Air: Sea Hawks Protecting Israeli Gas

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July 12, 2016: Israel has ordered eight refurbished American SH-60F Sea Hawk naval helicopters. These aircraft will be delivered along with training and a supply of spare parts and cost $37.5 million per helicopter, over 30 percent less than the cost of new aircraft. Israel will use these SH-60Fs for new frigates they are building to guard offshore natural gas fields. Israel bought used SH-60s not just because they are cheaper but because they are available much sooner and used SH-60s have a good reputation among a growing list of users.

There is some urgency to this because in 2013 Israel began pumping natural gas from offshore deposits discovered and developed since 2008. Israeli firms have found over $200 billion worth of oil and gas there so far. Israel is determined to use these finds to achieve energy independence by the end of the decade. But first the offshore facilities and pipelines have to be defended from terrorists and military threats.

A special military force has been established to protect the offshore facilities. A defense system is being built (at a cost of over $700 million) in and around the facilities and shore installations. These will consist of offshore sensors and weapons as well as new ships and aircraft. It will cost $100 million a year to man and maintain these defenses.

Some of the offshore gas wells are within range of rockets fired from Gaza or southern Lebanon (where Hezbollah does as it wants). The rockets are not accurate enough to hit a gas well, unless dozens (or more) were fired at once (after that Israeli air power will be all over the launch sits). Hezbollah could also use their more accurate C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 120 kilometers). This is a Chinese weapon that Iran produces its own version of. It’s a 6.8 meter (21 foot) long, 360mm diameter, 682 kg (1,500 pound) missile with a 165kg (360 pound) warhead. It can be jammed or intercepted, but equipping the offshore platforms with these devices and manning them 24/7 is expensive.

The SH-60 is a navalized version of the U.S. Army Black Hawk. The SH-60F is a ten ton helicopter that can carry three tons of personnel or equipment. Cruise speed is 270 kilometers an hour and sorties are usually three hours. The SH-60F can be equipped for anti-submarine or mine clearing, as well as transporting equipment and personnel.

 


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