The War Is Boring Israeli Navy Primer

31.05.10

Categorie: David Axe, Israel, Naval |
Tags: , ,

IDF patrol boat

IDF patrol boat. Photo via Robert Farley.

by DAVID AXE

“At least nine people have been killed after Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army says.” This according to the BBC. “Israel says its soldiers were shot at and attacked with bars and knives; the activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting.”

“As we are reminded time and time again, early reporting often gets it wrong,” according to Information Dissemination. “The same is true with the events involving the flotilla engaged by the [Israeli Defense Forces].”

We await further reporting. In the meantime, here’s a survey of War Is Boring‘s recent articles on the Israeli sea service:

Israeli Navy Revamps for Hybrid, Littoral and Strategic Warfare
On July 14, 2006, Hezbollah fighters fired two anti-ship missiles at the Israeli navy’s INS Hanit, a Sa’ar 5-class corvette, while Hanit was patrolling 10 miles off the Lebanese coast in support of Israeli attacks on the Iranian-supported extremist group. …

The attack was a major propaganda coup for Iran and Hezbollah and a wake-up call for the Israeli navy. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah monitored and commented on the missile strike in real time, while conducting a phone interview with a Lebanese television station. “You don’t know who you are dealing with,” he said as Hanit burned. … [T]he attack underscored shortfalls in Israeli tactics, equipment and preparedness that the 5,500-strong sea service has worked hard to correct.

Subsequent naval operations, particularly those targeting Iranian-backed Hamas in Gaza in January, revealed a better trained and equipped Israeli navy. Today the navy is optimizing to take on so-called “hybrid” threats, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, that combine high technology with insurgent methods — while Israel also boosts its high-end strategic capabilities, in order to deter Iran from overt attacks.

Inside the New Israeli Defense Forces
For years, the IDF had struggled to protect its ships and boats from insurgent attackers. In 2000, 2002 and again in April this year, Palestinian extremists using explosive-laden fishing boats tried to blow themselves up alongside Israeli patrol vessels. Bombers, combined with the missile threat, have made the waters off Gaza and Lebanon some of most dangerous in the world. After Lebanon, the Israeli navy realized it no longer had the upper hand.

The IDF’s answer was to update its tactics and equipment. For starters, Israeli corvettes apparently now operate mostly at night, when it’s more difficult for extremist missile-launchers and bombers to spot them. Also, the ships probably use more electronic jamming. When Israeli warships must operate during the day, they stay farther from land, according to a senior navy source. That means corvettes like Hanit, which has been repaired, rely heavily on missiles, rather than guns, to hit ground targets. The IDF showed Wired.co.uk a series of videos depicting a corvette firing what appear to be Spike armor-piercing missiles at targets in Gaza. The Israeli navy arms many of its vessels with highly accurate Typhoon weapons mounts that can be fitted with machine-guns, grenade launchers or Spike missiles.

Israel Boosts Nuclear, Conventional Deterrence
In July [2009], the Israeli navy — a force mostly confined to the eastern Mediterranean — sent three of its most powerful warships through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. A Dolphin-class diesel-powered submarine passed through the canal on July 3. Two Sa’ar 5-class corvettes followed, 10 days later. The ships trained alongside Egyptian forces, then returned to Israel by mid-July. It was the largest long-range naval deployment in recent history for the 5,500-strong Israeli navy, and the first since 2005 for an Israeli sub.

The naval deployments are part of a wide range of activities meant to reinforce Israel’s strategic deterrence and its increasingly close ties to neighboring Arab states. Worries over Iran’s continuing nuclear ambitions, and Tehran’s ongoing support for Hezbollah and Hamas, have spurred big Israeli investment in strike aircraft, submarines, surface ships and missiles — both nuclear and non-nuclear — tailored for long-range strikes on heavily defended targets.

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7 Responses to “The War Is Boring Israeli Navy Primer”

  1. max1mos111 says:

    The @AymanKhateeb account is providing some info on another planned flotilla exercise planned by IHH leadership and Hamas. I am finding a strategic pattern of activity in Kuwait, Turkey, Gaza as far as leadership elements. We are seeing foreign nationals from Britain, Greece, Turkey, Palestine,Canada, and other Muslim regions surfacing in this IHH sting. I am assuming a majority of arms smuggled by the IHH to Gaza by boats are done through the IHH. This may be a area of focus to disembowel the IHH leadership core and deter its IHH Hawala funding to radical Islam. This of course is a separate network from the Indonesian networks I have discussed in the past focusing on people smuggling efforts by the extremists Muslims. I believe that to be a separate network.

    Max

  2. Prestwick says:

    All of that high tech and re-positioned tactical thinking does not compensate for the sheer stupidity of abseiling directly into a crowd of angry people.

    I have absolutely no interest in what the IHH flotilla may have been carrying but abseiling directly into a hostile crowd could have resulted in 10 dead IDF commandos. It was absolute folly and the risks both to the men taking part and Israel diplomatically overall were too great.

  3. DesertWolf says:

    There were no weapons aboard those ships being transported to Gaza. Those vessels were checked repeatedly by multiple governments and were found to contain only humanitarian aid. Even the Israelis do not make that claim, and if some of them did, then they are simply wrong.

    And honestly, slingshots,knives, and improvised metal rods from chairs do not warrant a deadly response of this magnitude. The post from information dissemination was absurd:

    1) It was international waters, under international law the action taken by the IDF is an act of piracy.
    2) The comparison to drug runners running their goods into the states is sheer absurdity. These were parliamentarians, nobel prize winners, and old men/women, children, and humanitarians trying to break into GAZA not Israel in order to lift a blockade that runs against two UN resolutions.

  4. Galrahn says:

    “It was international waters, under international law the action taken by the IDF is an act of piracy.”

    The boarding was legal under international law that covers maritime blockades. I have thus explained in a follow up post. Don’t get caught up on legal issues too much though, something can be legal but stupid.

    “The comparison to drug runners running their goods into the states is sheer absurdity. These were parliamentarians, nobel prize winners, and old men/women, children, and humanitarians trying to break into GAZA not Israel in order to lift a blockade that runs against two UN resolutions.”

    The criticism of the analogy is fair, but the ‘who does what and why it matters’ discussion is purely a political point. Reputations are leveraged in politics, and the high profile reputations of activists will surely be utilized in the political space of this action.

    Political protests used in this style is an example of NGO infowar. This wasn’t some high seas drama involving a clash between protesters and law enforcement, it was an action by a non-state political organization against a military maritime blockade. Welcome to the complexity of nGW, a complexity Israel would appear to either misunderstand or dismiss as important.

  5. Nate says:

    It seems likely to me that a portion of those on board the Marmara were planning on violence from the get-go. It’s the only way I can explain the reaction, because a normal crew would soil themselves and get off the deck as quickly as possible if they saw men with guns coming down from a helicopter. Consider crews of vessels that are boarded by pirates, they usually lock themselves inside if they can, they don’t put up a fight. You would only beat armed men with sticks if either you didn’t believe they would really open fire, or you were trying to get yourself shot. So, those guys were either incredibly stupid and naive, or they planned to sacrifice their lives in order to vilify Israel. I don’t buy the idea that these people thought so highly of Israeli soldiers that they believed they would restrain themselves while being beaten; that leaves the other possibility, that they were intentionally creating a violent incident.

    This leads me to think that those high-profile peace activists in the flotilla were taken for a ride themselves. They were misled into believing that this was a peaceful mission whereas in reality there was a group on board, perhaps a fairly small one, that intended all along to turn it into a bloody fight.

  6. wheeler says:

    Who is running mossad these days?

  7. When no one was no one says:

    Positing that a bunch of young Turks, on a ship with many women and old folks present, would run below decks at the first sign of trouble is horribly short selling Turkish machismo.

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