With no end in sight to the hostility of Arab nations and terror groups against Israel, the IDF (Israel Defense Force) is considering plans for a new class of ship, far larger than anything yet operated by the IDF. The state-of-the-art 13,000-ton amphibious assault ship would carry tanks, troops, and both manned and unmanned aircraft. With an un-refueled range of 2,000 miles, the Multi-Mission, Combined Arms Platform would substantially expand the navys capabilities.
Tentative specs for the ship include the capacity to carry 600 troops in addition to the crew, affording the option of placing within hours a medium-sized force ashore anywhere along the waters which Israel patrols. The downside would be in floating what one critic said would be a big, fat target in a relatively small body of water.
The largest ships now operated by Israel are three Eilat class Saar 5 corvettes. INS (Israel Naval Service) Eilat and INS Lahav were launched in 1993; INS Hanit in 1994. These ships are highly capable. With a crew of 61, plus 10 aircrew, they carry the IAI Unified Combat System which uses El-Op's MSIS electro-optic surveillance and fire control system. They are armed with both an IAI Barak missile system, carried in two 32-cell vertical launch systems, and two four-cell Boeing Harpoon missile launchers. Aside from its Oto Melara 76mm main gun and Phalanx, the class carries Alliant Techsystems Mark 46 torpedoes. The ship can accommodate an H-665A Dauphin, Kaman SH-2F, or Sikorsky S-76N helicopter. Countermeasures include the Sensytech AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy system.
Despite this capability, the Saar 5 ships displace 1,230 tons as opposed to the 13,000 tons for the proposed amphib. Older US Navy LPDs, such as the 39-year-old USS Austin (LPD-4), displace 17,000 tons, while the new San Antonio class (LPD-17) displace nearly 25,000. The proposed Israeli ship might support amphibious assault with the VTOL/STOL F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as a variety of helicopters and unmanned vehicles. As ships afloat, the forces aboard would be far more difficult for enemies to destroy than land-based assets.
Until this proposal was revealed, the IDFs biggest publicly announced project was the Saar 5-II, an improved version of the Saar 5 that would also carry either the AEGIS air defense system or an Israeli-built system. A decision by Israel is expected before the end of summer. K.B. Sherman