Surface Forces: June 17, 2003


Israel has introduced a new class of small missile boats, the Saar 4.5 class. The first boat, the Sufa, entered service in the last month. The 488 ton, 202 foot long boats have a crew of fifty and a lot of electronics equipment. Armament includes eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 20mm automatic cannon, a Typhoon 23mm remote controlled autocannon, and several 7.62mm machine-guns. The 23mm cannon has a long range infrared (heat sensitive) sensor attached, and a weapons operator in the ships control center can use the sensor to scan the surrounding seas, getting better identification on ships picked up by the radar. The Typhoon infrared sensor can see out to the horizon (about 20 kilometers away) and has magnification built in. Basically, the radar and Typhoon operators work hardest at night, when terrorists, or ordinary smugglers, tend to work along Israel's 190 kilometers of coastline. The boat also has a Phalanx anti-missile cannon, as well as a chaff dispenser system and missile warning software for its radar. The Sufa is one of the larger ships in the Israeli navy, most others being patrol boats of under a hundred tons with crews of 10-20 sailors. The Sufa rarely stays at sea for more than 28 days, partly, perhaps, because of the Israeli navy custom of not taking off boots or uniform while at sea (so as to be ready for action at all times). There is another version of the Saar 4.5, that removes some of the armament and replaces it with a helicopter. This can be more useful, although more expensive (operating helicopters is expensive) for patrolling areas beyond the horizon. Anything hostile that far out can be hit with the Harpoon missiles, which have a range of 140 kilometers. 


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