Israeli Navy

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Israeli Navy
חיל הים הישראלי
Israeli Sea Corps Soldiers.jpg
Cadets from the Israeli Naval Academy in December 2007
Founded1948;72 years ago (1948)
CountryFlag of Israel.svg  Israel
Type Navy
Size3 corvettes (Sa'ar 5class)
8 missile boats (Sa'ar 4.5class)
5 submarines (Dolphinclass)
45 patrol boats
2 support ships
10,000 active
10,000 reserve
Part ofFlag of the Israel Defense Forces.svg  Israel Defense Forces
Garrison/HQ HaKirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Motto(s)"Open Sea, Safe Coasts"
Engagements 1948 Arab–Israeli War
War over Water
Six-Day War
War of Attrition
Yom Kippur War
1982 Lebanon War
1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict
Second Intifada
2006 Lebanon War
Blockade of the Gaza Strip
Gaza War
Operation Protective Edge
Commander of the Navy Aluf Eli Sharvit
Naval ensign Naval Ensign of Israel.svg
Pennant Israeli Navy penant.svg

The Israeli Navy (Hebrew : חיל הים הישראלי, Ḥeil HaYam HaYisraeli (English: Sea Corps of Israel); Arabic : البحرية الإسرائيلية) is the naval warfare service arm of the Israel Defense Forces, operating primarily in the Mediterranean Sea theater as well as the Gulf of Eilat and the Red Sea theater. The current commander in chief of the Israeli Navy is Aluf Eli Sharvit. The Israeli Navy is believed to be responsible for maintaining Israel's offshore nuclear second strike capability. [1]



INS Eilat, ex-Royal Navy Z-class destroyer sold to Israel in 1955 INSEilat.jpg
INS Eilat, ex-Royal Navy Z-classdestroyer sold to Israel in 1955

The origins of the Israeli Navy lay in the founding of the Betar Naval Academy, a Jewish naval training school established in Civitavecchia, Italy, in 1934 by the Revisionist Zionist movement under the direction of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, with the agreement of Benito Mussolini.[ citation needed ] The Academy trained cadets from all over Europe, Palestine and South Africa and produced some of the future commanders of the Israeli Navy. In September 1937, the training ship Sarah I visited Haifa and Tel Aviv as part of a Mediterranean tour.

INS Gal at the Naval Museum, Haifa HN-INS-Gal-2.jpg
INS Gal at the Naval Museum, Haifa

In 1938, encouraged by the Jewish Agency, Dr. Shlomo Bardin founded the Marine High School in Bosmat, the Technion's Junior Technical College. 1943 witnessed the founding of the Palyam, the naval branch of the Palmach, whose training was undertaken at the maritime school. The Jewish merchant marine was also raised, operating SS Tel-Aviv and cargo ships such as Atid.

In 1942, eleven hundred Haganah volunteers joined the Royal Navy, mostly in technical roles (12 of them were officers by the nomination agreement of the Jewish Agency with the Royal Navy). A few reached sea service and combat service. Two of them served with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA), one of whom was Edmond Wilhelm Brillant and the other Zvi Avidror. With the end of the Second World War, Palyam members took part in clandestine immigration activities, bringing Europe's Jews to Palestine, as well as commando actions against Royal Navy deportation ships. Royal Navy volunteers, meanwhile, rejoined the Haganah.

During the last months of British Mandate in Palestine, the former Royal Navy volunteers started work on the captured clandestine immigration ships (known as the Fleet of Shadows) in Haifa harbor, salvaged a few and pressed them into service. These were to become the Navy's first ships and saw service in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

Aharon "Eskimo" Ben Yosef, commander of Shayetet 13, naval special forces. ABY1948.jpg
Aharon "Eskimo" Ben Yosef, commander of Shayetet 13, naval special forces.

At the outset of the 1948 war and with the founding of the IDF, the Israeli Navy consisted of four former Aliyah Bet ships impounded in Haifa harbor. These ships were refurbished by a newly formed naval repair facility with the assistance of two private shipbuilding and repair companies. In October 1948, a submarine chaser was purchased from the United States. With the founding of the IDF in early 1948, the Israeli Navy was therefore formed from a core of the following personnel: [2] [3]

During the war, the warships served on coastal patrol duties and bombarded Arab targets on land, including Egyptian coastal installations in and around the Gaza area all the way to Port Said. [8] The Israeli Navy also engaged the Egyptian Navy at sea during Operation Yoav, and the Egyptian Navy's flagship, Emir Farouk , was sunk in an operation by Israeli naval commandos.

Torpedo boats of the Israeli Navy. Built by Chantiers Navals de Meulan, France. Tsqd914.jpg
Torpedo boats of the Israeli Navy. Built by Chantiers Navals de Meulan, France.

To make matters worse, Palyam personnel often resisted efforts to instill order, discipline and rank in the newly formed service. Mess rooms were initially shared by both officers and enlisted men. Ships possessed a captain with nautical skills, but also a commanding officer regarded as political. This would cause a great deal of debate between veterans of the Palyam, Royal Navy volunteers from the Haganah and U.S. Navy Machal volunteers about what form the Navy should take. [2] [9] [10] Commander Allen Burk is reputed to have said, out of despair, "You cannot make naval officers from cowboys". [3]

Royal Navy Captain Ashe Lincoln, [11] who was Jewish, advised Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to purchase corvettes, frigates, destroyers, torpedo boats, and patrol boats to build up the Israeli Navy power. To that end, he urged Ben-Gurion to consult with professional navy advisers. This resulted in instructions to contact U.S. Navy advisors, mainly Commander Paul Shulman from the U.S. Navy.

The Israeli Navy suffered from a lack of professional command during its early days. [2] Gershon Zak, head of the IDF "Sea Service", was a teacher and bureaucrat without any relevant experience. Having never been recruited into the IDF, Zak was a civilian and had no official rank. The early days of the Israeli Navy were therefore characterized by political infighting, as many groups and individuals jockeyed for power. Palyam politics blocked the nomination of Paul Shulman (a Jewish U.S. Navy officer with a rank of Commander who volunteered for the Israeli Navy) as Navy-Commander in Chief and he resigned in 1949. The first Navy-Commander in Chief awarded the rank of Aluf was Shlomo Shamir. [2]

The conclusion of the 1948 war afforded the navy the time to build up its strength. Beginning in the early 1950s the navy purchased frigates, torpedo boats, destroyers, and eventually submarines. The material build-up was accompanied by the training of Israeli Navy officers in Royal Navy academies in the UK and Malta, as well as in France.

Three distinct periods characterize the history of the Israeli Navy:

Until 1967 the Naval Headquarters were located at Stella-Marris, on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa. After the Six-Day War it was relocated to the Kirya in Tel Aviv, next to IDF Headquarters.

Yom Kippur War

In the most significant engagement in its history, during the Yom Kippur War five Israeli Navy missile boats sank five Syrian ships without losses during the Battle of Latakia. As a result, the Syrian Navy remained in port for the remainder of the conflict. [14] It was the first naval battle in history between surface-to-surface missile-equipped missile boats.

Another significant engagement is the Battle of Baltim, during which six Israeli Navy missile boats engaged four Egyptian Navy missile boats sinking three, again, without losses.


INS Rahav RAHAV 7208.JPG
INS Rahav
Sa'ar 5-class missile sorvettes of the Israeli Navy Three Sa'ar 5 Class Missile Corvettes Going For a Cruise.jpg
Sa'ar 5-class missile сorvettes of the Israeli Navy
Shayetet 13, Naval commandos Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - The Exemplary IDF Unit of 2011, Shayetet 13.jpg
Shayetet 13, Naval commandos
The emblem of the Haifa naval base is two arrows – one signifying the Missile Boats Flotilla and the other the Submarine Flotilla.
The emblem of the Ashdod naval base is two opposing arrows.
Eilat naval base was founded in 1951 and has been responsible for the Israeli Navy's Red Sea theater since 1981, when the Red Sea Naval Command Center was withdrawn from Sharm el-Sheikh in accordance with the Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty.
The emblem of the Eilat naval base represents the red roofs of Eilat.
The emblem of the Haifa training base is an owl, symbolizing wisdom and hard learning.
Mamtam is a small unit responsible for all Israeli Navy signal and IT systems, both logistic and operational. The soldiers that serve there are mainly programmers and university graduates in engineering, computer science and other technological professions.


Structure of the Israel Navy Structure israel navy.png
Structure of the Israel Navy

Patrol squadrons

Based in Haifa, Eilat, and Ashdod respectively, Squadrons 914, 915, and 916 defend Israel's shores from nearby.

Unit's objectives

3rd Flotilla

The Missile Boats Flotilla, based at Haifa. It consists of the 31st, 32nd and 33rd Missile Boat Squadrons and the 34th Anti-Submarine Squadron.

Unit's objectives

7th Flotilla

The Submarine Flotilla, a volunteer unit founded in 1959.

Unit's objectives

For security reasons, applicants with dual citizenship must now officially renounce all other citizenships to be accepted into the submarine service training program. [16]

13th Flotilla

Shayetet 13, or Flotilla 13, is an elite naval commando unit which specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage operations, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and boarding. It is among the most highly trained and secretive units in the Israeli military.

Yaltam divers in training Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - Underwater Missions Unit Transfers Equipment Using Special "Lifting-Bags".jpg
Yaltam divers in training


Salvage and underwater works unit. Formed as the damage control branch of the Navy Shipyards, the unit later incorporated experienced Flotilla-13 divers.


Force protection and harbour security unit. Also in charge of diving checkups of civilian ships entering Israeli harbours.


The Corps' relies on its Naval Intelligence Division for naval intelligence.


"INS" stands for "Israeli Navy Ship". [17]


ClassPhotoShipsCommission yearOriginNotes
Sa'ar 5 INS Lahav.jpg

INS Eilat (Eilat)
INS Lahav (Blade)
INS Hanit (Spear)


Flag of the United States.svg  United States U.S. built class

Missile boats

ClassPhotoShipsCommission yearOriginNotes
Sa'ar 4.5 s`r 4.5.JPG INS Romach, pronounced [ʁomaχ] (Lance)

INS Keshet (Bow)

INS Hetz, pronounced [ˈχet͡s] (Arrow)

INS Kidon (Javelin)

INS Tarshish (Tarshish)

INS Yaffo (Jaffa)

INS Herev, pronounced [χeʁev] (Sword)

INS Sufa (Storm)









Flag of Israel.svg  Israel
  • INS Kidon was originally a Sa'ar 4 built in 1974 and converted to Saar 4.5 class in 1994
  • INS Tarshish was originally a Sa'ar 4 built in 1975 and converted to Saar 4.5 class in 1998
  • INS Yaffo was originally a Sa'ar 4 built in 1975 and converted to Saar 4.5 class in 1998


ClassPhotoShipsCommission yearOriginNotes
Dolphinclass I.n.s. dolfin-03.JPG INS Dolphin (Dolphin)

INS Livyathan (Whale)

INS Tekumah (Revival)




Flag of Germany.svg  Germany German built submarines
AIP Dolphin 2 class INS Tanin (1).jpg INS Tanin (Crocodile)

INS Rahav (Rahab)

INS Drakon (Dragon)




Flag of Germany.svg  Germany

Patrol boats

Class [18] PhotoNumber of shipsCommissionedOriginNotes
Dvora Hai Ou Class missile boat.jpg 91988Flag of Israel.svg  Israel
Super Dvora Mk II HPL-21 Ankaran.jpg 41996Flag of Israel.svg  Israel
Super Dvora Mk III kly bt"SH.jpg 132004Flag of Israel.svg  Israel
Shaldag ShaldagMk3.jpg 1989Flag of Israel.svg  Israel
Defender US Navy 090517-N-9286M-003 Iraqi Navy defender-class patrol boats are moored to a pier at Umm Qasr, south port terminal in Basra, Iraq.jpg 2002Flag of Israel.svg  Israel
Rafael Protector USV Conning tower of the Protector USV.jpg 2000sFlag of Israel.svg  Israel Unmanned Naval Patrol Vehicles
Silver Marlin 2006?Flag of Israel.svg  Israel USV Naval Patrol Vehicles

Support ships


Commando boats


Israeli AS565MA Atalef, 2007 IAF-AS-565.jpg
Israeli AS565MA Atalef, 2007

Aircraft operated by the Israeli Navy, even when including on-board Navy mission specialists, are flown and maintained by Israeli Air Force personnel and are part of the air force command structure.

Unmanned aerial vehicles


Israel Aerospace Industries Gabriel missile Gabrielout.jpg
Israel Aerospace Industries Gabriel missile


ThyssenKrupp will build four Sa'ar patrol vessels for EEZ duties such as protecting offshore gas fields. [22] The ships will be based on the MEKO A-100 design [22] like Germany's Braunschweig-classcorvettes, suggesting they will be 90 m (295 ft) long and displace around 1,800 tonnes, named Sa'ar 6-classcorvette. This deal was signed in December 2014 and Germany is believed to be contributing up to €115m of the €1 billion cost. [23] Previously Israel had hoped to acquire an up-armed version of the Freedomclass of littoral combat ships from Lockheed Martin, but spiralling costs had made this impossible, along with a fallback option from Northrop Grumman/Huntington Ingalls Industries which built the Sa'ar 5class.

Currently under construction is a sixth Dolphin 2 submarine (INS Drakon). Additionally, Israel signed an MoU with Germany for the construction of three more Dolphin 2 submarines with expected delivery in the late 2020s which will replace its three Dolphin 1 submarines delivered in the late 1990s.

The Israeli Navy signed an agreement with Israel Shipyards for the design and supply of a new class of missile boats based on Israel Shipyards' Sa'ar 72-class corvette that will replace its Sa'ar 4.5 ships starting in the mid-2020s. Israel Shipyards will also construct a large dry dock which will enable it to outfit the new Sa'ar 6 corvettes with various Israeli-made systems, as well as service and maintain the Sa'ar 6 corvettes and Dolphin submarines. [24]


The Israeli Navy is small compared to other Navies and the officers chain of command is as follows with respect to Royal – Navy / United States: [25]

OF-10OF-9OF-8OF-7OF-6OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1 OF(D) & Student officer
Naval Ensign of Israel.svg Israel
No equivalent
Israel-Navy-OF-7.svg Israel-Navy-OF-6.svg Israel-Navy-OF-5.svg Israel-Navy-OF-4.svg Israel-Navy-OF-3.svg Israel-Navy-OF-2.svg Israel-Navy-OF-1b.svg Israel-Navy-OF-1a.svg IDF Ranks Ka'ab.svg IDF Ranks Kama.svg
Major General
Brigadier General
(תת אלוף)
(אלוף משנה)
Lieutenant Colonel
(סגן אלוף)
(רב סרן)
Second Lieutenant
(סגן משנה)
Superior Academic Officer
(קצין אקדמי בכיר)
Professional Academic Officer
(קצין מקצועי אקדמי)
NATO code
Naval Ensign of Israel.svg Israel
09.Israeli Navy-CPO3.svg 08.Israeli Navy-CPO2.svg 07.Israeli Navy-CPO1.svg 06.Israeli Navy-CPO.svg 05.Israeli Navy-PO1.svg 04.Israeli Navy-PO2.svg 03.Israeli Navy-PO3.svg 02.Israeli Navy-LSM.svg No equivalentNo insigniaNo equivalent
Chief warrant officer
(רב-נגד (רנ"ג
Command Sergeant Major
(רב-סמל בכיר (רס"ב
Sergeant Major
(רב-סמל מתקדם (רס"מ
Master Sergeant
(רב-סמל ראשון (רס"ר
Sergeant First Class
(רב-סמל (רס"ל
Staff Sergeant
(סמל ראשון (סמ"ר
(רב טוראי (רב"ט

Sleeve rank of Israeli Navy Commander-in-Chief is a rank of honor. This began as special permission from Lt. General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (then chief of staff of the IDF) and allows the Navy Commander-in-Chief to have a sleeve rank of Vice Admiral which is equal to Lt. General, the rank of the IDF Chief of Staff. However the de facto rank of Israeli Navy Commander-in-Chief is Rear Admiral and the gesture given to the navy is ceremonial only when meeting foreign commanding officers.

The same resolution as mentioned above applies to the rank of Commodore. There is ceremonial-only sleeve rank of Rear–Admiral while by the IDF hierarchy and chain of command he remains a commodore.

List of commanders

See also

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Palyam former miltary organisation

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