Israeli navy successfully completes a live fire exercise simulating defense of its off-shore oil and gas infrastructure
Earlier this week Israeli navy completed an exercise simulating an enemy attack against its off-shore natural gas installations. In recent years, significant amounts of natural gas were discovered in the eastern Mediterranean in Israeli and Cypriot national waters and the exploitation of these resources has been proceeding apace. At the same time, the Syrian civil war, Iranian naval muscle-flexing, and Russian operations from their naval and air bases in Western Syria have made the security situation in the waters around Israel progressively more complex.
Israeli natural gas rigs located off-shore are considered a strategic asset that must be defended against attack. As Israel maintains air superiority in the region, it is specifically attacks by shipping disguised as civilian cargo carriers, but actually equipped to land small commando forces to take over and sabotage the rigs or even engage in kamikaze style attacks where a ship loaded with explosives would ram the rig and sink it that are considered plausible scenarios.
It is precisely to guard against such eventualities that the large-scale exercise, dubbed “Raging Seas” was designed. The exercise involved an old bulk carrier the “Eyal” that the IDF has purchased to serve as a naval target approaching an are forbidden for navigation. The vessel was discovered by patrolling helicopters and engaged from a distance of several kilometers by four Sa’ar 4.5 missile boats. A number of missiles were fired, including the harpoon ship to ship missile at a cost of about US$1 million each. Israel navy spokesperson declined to specify how many missiles hot the target, saying only that the target was destroyed and sunk. Commanding officer of the missile boat flotilla, Captain Guy Goldfarb summarized the exercise in saying: “This was a unique exercise the like of which were not undertaken in at least two decades. In order to maintain battle readiness of the flotilla, live fire exercises, though expensive, are essential”.