Jerusalem: The Israeli Navy plans to install an advanced, short and long-range missile system on the new vessels it will purchase next year, a media report said.
Navy and defense ministry officials have been holding talks in recent months focused on the need for new vessels to replace the aging fleet of Sa`ar 5-class corvettes, reported Xinhua.
According to officers who spoke to The Jerusalem Post, Israel needs more advanced missiles onboard its vessels to fulfill a number of roles, among them protecting Israeli gas and oil rigs in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli Navy has boosted security around the offshore platforms in recent months, due to concerns over dangers posed by militant groups or an armed conflict with neighbouring states.
In April, the US Sixth Fleet oversaw maneuvers with the Israeli and Greek navies, code-named Noble Dina, which included air-to-air combat simulations, anti-submarine warfare and protection of offshore natural gas rigs.
The rigs, located more than 130 km beyond Israel`s territorial waters but within the country`s "economic waters zone", are a prime target for ground and ship-based rockets, or other militant attacks.
The five contiguous offshore fields - Aditya, Ishai, Lela, Yahav and Yoad - are located 170 km west of Haifa, and cover 500,000 acres. They are adjacent to the larger Leviathan (450 billion cubic meters) and Tamar (240 billion cubic meters) fields, discovered several years ago.
The army`s high command recently tasked the navy`s missile boat flotilla with securing the Tamar, Leviathan and Yam Tethys drilling platforms, according to reports in local media outlets.
Another reason for the new weaponry is a potential offensive against Gaza, Lebanon or Syria. In armed conflicts in recent years, naval forces aided the military`s offensives, providing them with fire support.
The missiles the army is considering could be deployed against enemy installations, bases or radar stations.
The navy is looking at a number of systems, including Israel Military Industries` 160 mm Accular -- a GPS-guided missile system with a range of 40 km, as well as longer-range missiles.
"These missiles will give us the ability to play a more influential role," a senior navy officer told the newspaper.
Additionally, the vessel itself will have to accommodate an advanced radar system, a helicopter and a launch system, capable of firing long-range air defense and surface-to-surface missiles.
One possibility, military sources told the Post, is to design the ships in the US, using foreign military financing, and then build them at Israel shipyards. Another option is to build them in South Korea.