Battle of Latakia
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The Battle of Latakia (Arabic: معركة اللاذقية; Hebrew: קרב לטקיה) was a small but revolutionary naval battle of the Yom Kippur War, fought on 7 October 1973, between Israel and Syria. It was the first naval battle in history to see combat between surface-to-surface missile-equipped missile boats and the use of electronic deception.
At the outset of hostilities, the Israeli Navy set out to destroy the naval capabilities of the Syrians, who were equipped with Soviet Komar and Osa class missile boats. The Syrian missile-boats were equipped with Soviet manufactured P-15 Termit (NATO reporting name: SS-N-2 Styx) anti-ship missiles with twice the range of the Israeli Gabriel anti-ship missiles.
The four Israeli Navy Sa'ar 3-class and one Sa'ar 4-class missile boats headed towards the Syrian port of Latakia in two parallel columns. In the western column were the missile boats Miznak (Blast), Ga'ash (Storm), and Hanit (Lance) and in the eastern column the missile boats Mivtach (Reliance) and Reshef (Spark)). At 22:28 hours the Israelis encountered the Syrian K-123 torpedo boat which was sunk with 76mm cannon fire from Mivtach and Hanit. Then as they headed toward the shore, they encountered a 560 ton Syrian T43-class minesweeper and sank it, using four Gabriel anti-ship missiles. At 23:30 the Israelis made contact with two Syrian Komar and one Osa class missile boats. The Syrian missile boats fired their missiles at long range. As the missiles approached, the Israelis employed electronic countermeasures and chaff rockets to avoid being hit, with success. When the Israeli missile boats reached the range of their own missiles they fired five Gabriel missiles and sank one Komar and one Osa class missile boat immediately and damaged the second Komar. The surviving Syrian missile boat tried to escape, but it was stuck in shallow waters and was destroyed by 76 mm cannon fire at 00:26 hours.
During this naval clash Syrian missile boats launched missiles from within the port limits (actually launched while the missile boats were moored between merchant ships in port). These missiles malfunctioned or lost guidance and hit 2 merchant vessels anchored along the piers. Both ships (one Greek and one Japanese) were hit in the engine rooms.
While the Battle of Latakia was the first naval battle in history between missile boats, it was not the first incident in which a missile boat sank another ship using missiles. That had happened when one Egyptian Soviet-built Komar class sank the British-built Israeli destroyer Eilat on 20 October 1967, shortly after the Six Day War, using two to four P-15 Termit surface-to-surface missiles.
- Lerner, Adi (7 October 2011). "The Untold Story of Naval Heroism in the Yom Kippur War". Maariv (in Hebrew). Retrieved 7 October 2011.
- Betts, Richard K (1982), Cruise Missiles, Brookings Institution Press, p. 381.
- El Shzly, Saad, The Crossing of the Suez, p. 23.
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