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Israeli Navy

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Israeli Navy
חיל הים הישראלי
Emblem of the Israeli Navy
Founded1948; 76 years ago (1948)
Country Israel
Size7 corvettes (Sa'ar 5 class, Sa'ar 6 class)
8 missile boats (Sa'ar 4.5 class)
5 submarines (Dolphin class)
45 patrol boats
2 support ships
9,500 active[1]
10,000 reserve[1]
Part of Israel Defense Forces
Garrison/HQHaKirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Motto(s)Open Sea, Safe Coasts
Engagements1948 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
Operation Guardian of the Walls
2023 Israel–Hamas war
Commander of the NavyAluf David Saar Salama

The Israeli Navy (Hebrew: חיל הים הישראלי, Ḥeil HaYam HaYisraeli, lit.'[The] Israeli Sea Corps'; 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 David Saar Salama. The Israeli Navy is believed to be responsible for maintaining Israel's offshore nuclear second strike capability.[2]


The Israeli Navy is responsible for the construction of the naval force of the IDF and its operational capabilities. Its aim is to secure its superiority at sea, freedom of action, and freedom of navigation in the Israeli maritime space. It also conducts attacks against enemies and more.

Among the Navy's roles are:

  1. Safeguarding the security of the country and its citizens, including defending 190 km of Israel's coastline against terrorism and infiltrations.
  2. Ensuring open sea routes for merchant shipping.
  3. Defending Israel's territorial and economic waters, as well as its strategic assets.
  4. Naval operations and maritime interdiction.
  5. Obtaining vital intelligence and engaging in cyber activities.
  6. Integration with land warfare.

In the Multi-Year Plan (TYESH) for the years 2008-2012, the annual budget for the Navy stood at approximately one billion shekels, excluding the purchase of new naval vessels.[3]


Sarah I, a 190-foot (57.9 m) four-masted schooner of 750 tons used as a training ship by the Betar Naval Academy.
INS Eilat, ex-Royal Navy Z-class destroyer 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, 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

In 1938, encouraged by the Jewish Agency, 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 and the start of the Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine, 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 Arab–Israeli War.

Israeli missile boats on parade, 1971

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:[4][5]

  • Royal Navy volunteers with the technical skills and discipline acquired from the Royal Navy, though with no active sea service and experience on Royal Navy ships.
  • Palyam members who had led the clandestine and immigration effort, but had no sea background in navigation or leading a ship into a battle. The captains of clandestine and immigration ships were Italian, while Palyam personnel were commanding the ship under instructions from the Haganah. Ike Aharonowitch, captain of Exodus and a Jew, was the exception rather than the rule.
  • Merchant Marine captains and chief engineers, possessing navigation skills but lacking combat skills.
  • Jewish volunteers[6][7] from the United States Navy and Royal Navy, such as Commander Paul Shulman[8] of the U.S. Navy, and Commanders Solomon and Allen Burk of the Royal Navy.[9] These, however, were often discriminated against and their experience wasted by a navy command that was based on the Palmach and its various branches. This resulted in odd situations where unskilled officers from the Palyam were in command of far more experienced naval officers.

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.[10] 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.

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.[4][11][12] Commander Allen Burk is reputed to have said, out of despair, "You cannot make naval officers from cowboys".[5]

Royal Navy Captain Ashe Lincoln,[13] 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.[4] 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.[4]

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:

  • Foundation and early days
  • The destroyers' age
  • The missile boats era, beginning in 1965 and bearing fruit during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.[14][15]

Until 1967 the Naval Headquarters were located at Stella Maris, 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[edit]

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.[16] It was the first naval battle in history between surface-to-surface missile-equipped missile boats.

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

2006 Lebanon War[edit]

The surprise attack on the Israeli navy's flagship INS Hanit by an onshore Hezbollah battery was a turning point for naval doctrine and operations. Four seamen died when the YJ-83 missile hit the corvette because the vessel's missile defense systems had not been turned on at that time.[17]


INS Rahav
Sa'ar 5-class missile сorvettes of the Israeli Navy
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 Naval Training base – located in Haifa, contains the submarine operations school, the missile boat operations school and the naval command school. The naval training base also functions as the Israeli Naval Academy.
The emblem of the Haifa training base is an owl, symbolizing wisdom and hard learning.
  • Mamtam – IT, processing and computing.
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

Patrol squadrons[edit]

Squadrons 914, 915, and 916, based in Haifa, Eilat, and Ashdod respectively, consist of patrol boats. They are responsible for protecting Israel's shores and territorial waters.

Unit's objectives

  • Constant patrols in the seas of Israel.
  • Identification of watercraft entering Israeli waters.
  • Preventing smuggling through the sea
  • Protecting national assets, such as drilling rigs.
  • Various operations carried out alone, or with other units in and outside of the navy.
  • Various other objectives that differ between the squadrons.

3rd Flotilla[edit]

The missile boat flotilla (Shayetet 3) is based at Haifa. It consists of the 31st and 32nd missile boat squadrons and the 33rd and 36th corvette squadrons.

Unit's objectives

  • Protecting Israeli commerce at sea from foreign fleets.
  • Preventing a possible naval blockade of Israeli ports during wartime.
  • Blockading enemy ports at wartime.
  • Fire support for ground units.

7th Flotilla[edit]

The submarine flotilla (Shayetet 7), 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.[19]

13th Flotilla[edit]

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

Yaltam 707[edit]

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 Naval Intelligence Division is responsible for naval intelligence gathering.


"INS" stands for "Israeli Navy Ship".[20]

Missile corvettes[edit]

Class Photo Ships Commission year Origin Notes
Sa'ar 5 [ˈsa'ar] (Tempest)

INS Eilat, [ejˈlat] (Eilat)
INS Lahav [ˈlahav] (Blade)
INS Hanit [χaˈnit] (Spear)


 United States -
Sa'ar 6

INS Magen [maˈgen] (Shield)
INS Oz (Courage)
INS Atzmaut (Independence)
INS Nitzachon (Victory)



Missile boats[edit]

Class Photo Ships Commission year Origin Notes
Sa'ar 4.5 INS Romach, [ˈʁo̞maχ] (Lance)

INS Keshet, [ˈke̞ʃe̞t] (Bow)

INS Hetz, [ˈχe̞t͡s] (Arrow)

INS Kidon, [kiˈdo̞n] (Javelin)

INS Tarshish, [tarˈʃiʃ] (Tarshish)

INS Yaffo, [ˈjafo̞] (Jaffa)

INS Herev, [ˈχe̞ʁe̞v] (Sword)

INS Sufa [suˈfa] (Storm)









  • 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
  • The Sa'ar 4.5 boats are expected to be replaced with the 76m-long Reshef class corvette starting in the late 2020s


Class Photo Boats Commission year Origin Notes
Dolphin class INS Dolphin, [do̞lˈfin] (Dolphin)

INS Livyathan, [livjaˈtan] (Whale)

INS Tekumah, [tkuˈma] (Revival)





Expected to be replaced with the Dakar-class submarines starting in the early 2030s

AIP Dolphin 2 class INS Tanin, [taˈnin] (Crocodile)

INS Rahav, [ˈʁahav] (Rahab)

INS Drakon, [dʁaˈko̞n] (Dragon)





Patrol boats[edit]

Class Photo Number of ships Commissioned Origin Notes
Dvora, [dvo̞ˈʁa] (Bee) 9 1988  Israel
Super Dvora Mk II, [suˈpe̞ʁ dvo̞ˈʁa] 2 1996  Israel
Super Dvora Mk III 13 2004  Israel
Shaldag, [ʃalˈdaɡ] (Kingfisher) 5 1989  Israel
Defender 9 2002  Israel
Rafael Protector USV N/A 2000s  Israel Unmanned Naval Patrol Vehicles
Silver Marlin N/A 2006?  Israel USV Naval Patrol Vehicles

Support ships[edit]

Commando boats[edit]


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[edit]


Israel Aerospace Industries Gabriel missile


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

In August 2021, Israel Shipyards announced that the Israeli Navy has signed an agreement with it for the design and supply of a new class of missile boats based on Israel Shipyards' Sa'ar 72-class corvette that would replace its Sa'ar 4.5 ships starting in the mid-2020s. Israel Shipyards would construct a large dry dock which would enable it to outfit these new corvettes with various Israeli-made systems, as well as to service and maintain the corvettes in addition to Dolphin submarines.[24]

In an October 2021 interview, the head of the Israeli Navys` Naval Vessels Department said that these new "Reshef"-class corvettes would be equipped with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems's C-Dome air-defence system. He said that their design was expected to be complete in about two years, and the first ship would likely take another two to four years to construct. Eight are to be built, with each replacing a Sa'ar 4.5 upon being commissioned.[25]


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:[26]

Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
 Israeli Navy[27]
Rav aluf
Tat aluf
אלוף משנה
Aluf mishne
Sgan aluf
רב סרן
Rav seren
Segen mishne
קצין אקדמאי בכיר
Katzín akademai bakhír
קצין מקצועי אקדמאי
Katzín miktsoí akademai
Rank group Senior NCOs Junior NCOs Enlisted
 Israeli Navy[27]
No insignia
Rav nagad
רב-סמל בכיר
Rav samal bakhír
רב-סמל מתקדם
Rav samal mitkadem
רב-סמל ראשון
Rav samal rishon
Rav samal
סמל ראשון
Samal rishon
רב טוראי
Rav turai

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[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b International Institute for Strategic Studies (15 February 2023). The Military Balance 2023. London: Routledge. p. 331. ISBN 9781032508955.
  2. ^ Cirincione, Joseph; Wolfsthal, Jon B.; Rajkumar, Miriam (2005). Deadly arsenals: nuclear, biological, and chemical threats. Carnegie Endowment. pp. 263–4.
  3. ^ "בחיל הים מתלוננים: "תקציב קטן יותר משמעו ירידה ביכולת - זו אינה התייעלות"". TheMarker. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d "Anat Kidron MA Thesis, Israeli Navy Year of Foundation". Haifa University Israel. October 2000. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  5. ^ a b "The last Battle of the Destroyer INS Eilat by Commander Yitzhak Shushan". Ma’ariv Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  6. ^ "MACHAL Overseas Volunteers in Israel's War of Independence Page 28" (PDF). MOD IDF. 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  7. ^ "A Tiny, but Hard-Hitting Battle Force". By David Hanovice North American Volunteers in Israel's War of Independence. 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  8. ^ "Paul Schulman". The New York Times. 18 May 1994. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  9. ^ Nadav Reis. "Known Decorations for Bravery Awarded to Machalniks who served in World War II - מח"ל עולמי". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  10. ^ "A History of Volunteers in the Israeli Navy". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  11. ^ "The last Battle of the Destroyer INS Eilat by Commander Yitzhak Shushan". Ma'ariv Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  12. ^ Commander Shlomo, Ya'akobson a Hagana Veteran of the Royal Navy (1997). Betaltala. MOD House. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  13. ^ "Ashe Lincoln". Dangoor.com. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  14. ^ BOATS OF CHERBOURG Abraham Rabinovich. Bluejacket Books. 1973. ISBN 1-55750-714-7. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  15. ^ "The Missile Boat War The 1973 Arab-Israeli War at Sea" (PDF). By Dave Schueler. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  16. ^ "The Battle of Latakia". Jewish Virtual Library.
  17. ^ Udi Shaham. (22 April 2021). "Israel's Navy ready to attack Hezbollah from the sea like never before ". Jerusalem Post website Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Israel seeks sixth Dolphin in light of Iranian 'threat'". Jane’s. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  19. ^ Zitun, Yoav (8 February 2012). "IDF submarine fleet bans dual citizenship". Y net. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Ship Naming in the United States Navy". About.com. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  21. ^ The Military Balance 2017, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 14 February 2017, p. 384.
  22. ^ "חדשות - צבא וביטחון nrg - ...נושאת מזל"טים: חיל הים כובש". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  23. ^ "דף בית | Israel Defense". www.israeldefense.co.il. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  24. ^ Eshel, Tamir (20 November 2019). "Israeli-Designed Mini Corvettes to Replace Eight Hetz Missile Boats".
  25. ^ Yaakov Lappin; Jeremy Binnie (28 October 2021). "Israeli Navy's Reshef class to carry C-Dome air-defence system". Jane's Information Group. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  26. ^ "IDF Ranks". IDF Spoke Man. 2009. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  27. ^ a b "עושים לכם סדר בדרגות". idf.il (in Hebrew). Israel Defense Forces. Retrieved 3 June 2021.

External links[edit]