Israeli Navy

Israeli Navy
חיל הים הישראלי

Cadets from the Israeli Naval Academy, in December 2007.
Founded 1948
Country  Israel
Type Navy

3 corvettes (Sa'ar 5-class)
8 missile boats (Sa'ar 4.5-class)
5 submarines (Dolphin-class)
45 patrol boats
2 support ships

9,500 Active
10,000 Reserve
Part of Israel Defense Forces
Garrison/HQ HaKirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Motto(s) "Open Sea, Safe Land"
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-in-Chief Aluf Eli Sharvit
Naval ensign

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 Aqaba and the Red Sea theater. The current commander in chief of the Israeli Navy is Aluf Ram Rothberg. 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.

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. 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, 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 the SS Tel-Aviv and cargo ships such as the 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.

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, the Emir Farouk, was sunk in an operation by Israeli naval commandos.

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

To make matters worse, Palyam personnel often resisted efforts to instil 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]

RN Captain Ashe Lincoln , who was Jewish, advised PM Ben-Gurion to purchase corvettes, frigates, destroyers, torpedo-boats, and patrol boats to build up the Israeli Navy power. For that sake 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.

Diagram outlining the Battle of Latakia
Diagram outlining the Battle of Baltim

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 the Israeli Navy sank five Syrian ships without a loss during the Battle of Latakia. As a result, the Syrian Navy remained in port for the remainder of the conflict.[13]

Chain of Command

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:[14]

Commissioned Officers
Israeli NavyAlufTat-AlufAluf-MishneSgan-AlufRav-SerenSerenSegenSegen-Mishne
US NavyRear Admiral
(upper half)
Rear Admiral
(lower half)
CaptainCommanderLt. CommanderLieutenantLieutenant
Junior Grade
Royal NavyRear-AdmiralCommodoreCaptainCommanderLt-CommanderLieutenantSub-Lieutenant Midshipman
Army Ranks Major- GeneralBrigadier -GeneralColonelLt- Colonel MajorCaptain Lieutenant 2nd Lieutenant
Non-Commissioned OfficersEnlisted
Insignia none
Israeli NavyRav-NagadRav-Nagad
Rav-SamalSamal RishonSamalRav-TurayTuray
U.S. NavyCommand
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Senior Chief
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
1st Class
Petty Officer
2nd Class
Petty Officer
3rd Class
Royal NavyWarrant Officer
Class 1
Warrant Officer
Class 1
Warrant Officer
Class 2
Chief Petty OfficerPetty Officer(none)Leading Rate (none)Able Seaman(none)

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.


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 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

Patrol Squadrons

Based in Haifa, Eilat, and Ashdod respectively, Squadrons 914, 915, and 916 defend Israels' shores from near by.

Unit's objectives

3rd Flotilla

The Missile Boats Flotilla, based at Haifa.

Unit's objectives

7th Flotilla

The Submarine Flotilla, an elite 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


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


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


The Givati Brigade, an infantry brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, served as its amphibious force until the early 1990s.

The 11th Flotilla (disbanded in 1993) would transport the troops on various transport vessels.


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

A Sa'ar 5-class corvette INS Lahav, 2014
The Sa'ar 4.5 class missile boat INS Hetz, 1991
A Morena-class rigid-hulled inflatable boat
Israeli AS565MA Atalef, 2007
Israel Aerospace Industries Gabriel missile


Sa'ar 5-class

Missile boats

Sa'ar 4.5-class


Dolphin class

AIP Dolphin 2 class:

Patrol Boats


Support ships


Commando boats


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



Three new Sa'ar 72-class corvettes are under construction at Israel Shipyards, the first of which should enter service in 2015.[21] These are a stretched version of the Sa'ar 4.5 design that will incorporate stealth technology.

Despite some misgivings from Germany, the contract for the sixth and final Dolphin-class submarine is still intact[22] and it should be operational by 2017.[23] ThyssenKrupp will also build four "Sa'ar" patrol vessels for EEZ duties such as protecting offshore gas fields.[24] The ships will be based on the MEKO A-100 design[24] like Germany's Braunschweig-class corvettes, suggesting they will be 90m long and displace around 1,800 tonnes, named Sa'ar 6-class corvette. This deal was signed in December 2014 and Germany is believed to be contributing up to €115m of the €1 billion cost.[25] Previously Israel had hoped to acquire an up-armed version of the Freedom class 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 who built the Sa'ar 5 class.

List of commanders

Ram Rothberg, Commander of the Israeli navy, 2011–2016

Source: Jewish Virtual Library[26]

See also


  1. Cirincione, Joseph; Wolfsthal, Jon B.; Rajkumar, Miriam (2005). Deadly arsenals: nuclear, biological, and chemical threats. Carnegie Endowment. pp. 263–4.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Anat Kidron MA Thesis, Israeli Navy Year of Foundation". Haifa University Israel. October 2000. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  3. 1 2 "The last Battle of the Destroyer INS Eilat by Commander Yitzhak Shushan". Ma’ariv Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  4. "MACHAL Overseas Volunteers In Israel's War of Independence Page 28" (PDF). MOD IDF. 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  5. "A Tiny, but Hard-Hitting Battle Force". By David Hanovice North American Volunteers In Israel's War of Independence. 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  6. "Paul Schulman". NY Times. 18 May 1994. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  7. Nadav Reis. "Known Decorations for Bravery Awarded to Machalniks who served in World War II - מח"ל עולמי". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  9. "The last Battle of the Destroyer INS Eilat by Commander Yitzhak Shushan". Ma'ariv Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  10. Commander Shlomo, Ya'akobson a Hagana Veteran of the Royal Navy (1997). "Betaltala". MOD House. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  11. "BOATS OF CHERBOURG Abraham Rabinovich". Bluejacket Books ISBN 1-55750-714-7. 1973. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  12. "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.
  13. "The Battle of Latakia". Jewish Virtual Library.
  14. "IDF Ranks". IDF Spoke Man. 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  15. "Israel seeks sixth Dolphin in light of Iranian 'threat'". 1 October 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  16. "IDF submarine fleet bans dual citizenship". ynet. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  17. "Ship Naming in the United States Navy". Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 John Pike. "Navy Equipment - Israel". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  19. "חדשות - צבא וביטחון nrg - ...נושאת מזל"טים: חיל הים כובש". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  21. "Unraveling the History of the Israeli Navy, Part II". Frontpage Mag. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  23. "IAI seeks foreign investors to develop new missile warship". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  24. 1 2 Opall-Rome, Barbara (25 December 2014). "Israel, Germany Seal Offshore Patrol Vessel Deal". Defense News.
  25. Hudson, Alexandra (15 December 2015). "Germany says will help finance four new Israeli warships". Reuters.
  26. "Israel Navy Commanders-in-Chief". Retrieved July 30, 2016.
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