TEL AVIV (May. 6)
Defense officials took the wraps off three potent new weapons that have recently been added to Israel’s arsenal and will be displayed for the first time during Independence Day celebrations next week. They are an improved Israeli version of the famous American Patton tank; speedy new missile boats of the “Saar” class built for Israel in France before the arms embargo; and a new self-propelled 90 mm. cannon mounted on half tracks. The 135-foot missile-carrying boats are not unfamiliar to the world. Five of them, unarmed, were spirited away from Cherbourg last Christmas Day by Israeli crews and dashed across the Mediterranean to Haifa, causing an international sensation and acute embarrassment to the French government which had embargoed the boats. But seven of their sister boats had been delivered by France previously. According to Israeli officials, they are among the fastest and most sophisticated naval craft in the Mediterranean and are suitable for a variety of missions including the destruction of enemy vessels, coastal defense and support operations.
The boats are manned by six officers and 34 ratings, have the latest electronic equipment and carry eight electronically guided surface-to-surface “Gabriel” missiles which are manufactured in Israel. The boats are said to have excellent sea-keeping qualities, high speed and durability and are capable of sinking much larger craft at small risk. Officially Israel has seven of the “Saar” class boats. The five that arrived from Cherbourg last year were reportedly sold to commercial interests for oil exploration purposes and have dropped out of the news. Israeli armaments engineers have improved the Patton tank, known here officially as the “Patton H-3 Mark 48″ by replacing its former oil engine with a diesel engine and giving it a 500 mm. cannon like the powerful British Centurion cannon. With increased fire power and a speed close to 50 m.p.h., the revamped Patton has joined the Centurion as one of Israel’s main armored units, defense sources said. The new 90 mm. anti-tank gun is manned by a crew of five. Its mission is to support the infantry and armored infantry. According to defense officials, Israel is now almost entirely self-sufficient with respect to all types of ammunition, from machine gun cartridges to air force and artillery shells. The officials said that some ammunition is purchased abroad because it is more feasible to do so. not because it cannot be produced in Israel.