TELAVIV (Jul. 21)
The Navy, the smallest and probably least publicized branch of the Israel Defense Force, is due for major expansion and greater attention if its commander, Rear Admiral Avraham Ben-Shushan’s plans are implemented.
They call, among other things for the construction of four more Saar Class missile boats and three new submarines at a cost of about $1 billion. Ben-Shusan expressed grave concern over the growing naval strength of enemy Arab states and the increased frequency and sophistication of terrorist attempts attacking Israel by sea.
Israel needs new missile boats and submarines to meet the threat posed by the enlarged Syrian and Libyan navies and increased terrorist activity on the high seas, Ben-Shushan said. He disclosed that 31 terrorists were killed or captured in encounters with the Israel Navy at sea during the past year.
But the Admiral stressed that the Navy’s main problem is not the terrorists but how to cope with enemy navies. Both Syria and Libya are in the process of upgrading their navies, Ben-Shushan said. “We are watching the Syrian threat very carefully. They have more missile boats and modified missiles. They are much improved over 1973,” the year of the Yom Kippur War, he said.
Libya, at the same time, is acquiring naval craft from both the Eastern and Western powers which means Israel has to adopt counter-measures against both, he said. He noted that the Syrian and Libyan navies held numerous joint exercises last year and are cooperating more closely. He also observed that there are more Soviet naval units in the eastern Mediterranean than ever before, visiting ports in the region and cruising the high seas. He stressed that the Navy has very good relations with the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
The terrorists, too, are seeking better and faster boats and are beginning to train their people in more conventional ways, though their attempted attacks on Israel so far have been foiled.