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Israel Shipyard Ltd. Shows Off Its New Saar S-72 Concept at IMDEX

Some two years after initiating design work, Haifa based Israel Shipyard Ltd. (ISL) used the recent IMDEX Asia 2013 exhibition in Singapore to unveil its latest iteration of its Saar 4.5 series of large missile boats – the Saar S-72 “multipurpose” design that can be configured as a small corvette or as an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) thanks to a modular design approach.

The ship was designed based on the operational experience of the Israeli navy as well as other users of the Saar series says an ISL official. Besides the Israelis, other Saar users are the navies of South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico, Chile, Sri Lanka and the Hellenic Coast Guard.

The 72-meter long, 800-ton Saar S-72, with a crew of 50 and room for 20 special forces operators, is the largest warship design to emerge from ISL to date – its previous Saar 4.5 design having a length of 62 meters and displacing around 400-500 tons. Other principal particulars of the S-72 are a beam of 10.25 meters and a draft of almost 3 meters.

Saar S-72

The Saar S-72 corvette is envisioned as having a flight deck capable of carrying a 7 ton helicopter as well as unmanned aerial vehicles. Israel Shipyard Ltd. rendering

As envisioned by ISL, typical missions cover the spectrum from surface strike, air defense and maritime interdiction operations for the corvette to constabulary roles like EEZ patrolling, SAR, and pollution containment activities for the OPV configuration. Although ASW systems could be fitted, an ISL official says that “it is not seen a first priority mission” for the corvette variant.

The S-72 features a host of changes and improvements over its predecessor, the Saar 4.5 design, most noticeably in its stealthy appearance – with a sloped, unbroken superstructure that also houses a helicopter hangar and a 15.3-meter-long flight deck. Less visible changes include a “major improvement of signatures,” a different propulsion system using a twin screw arrangement instead of a four screw arrangement, and a “significant upgrade over the Saar 4.5 combat capabilities” says ISL.

Weapons, sensors and other equipment can be customized depending on customer requirements. A notional corvette could be equipped with a surface and anti-air warfare suite. Such a fit would comprise a 76 mm main gun, two 30 mm remotely operated cannon, 8 surface to surface missiles and 16 Barak 8 surface to air missiles with a range in excess of 70 kilometers. Defensive measures like a multi-barreled decoy launcher and an ESM system would be standard fit. Sensors would include a multifunction radar like Elta’s ELM 2258 Alpha, a fire control director for the main gun, and electro-optical sensor pods.

The flight deck is designed to handle a 7-ton medium helicopter like the AW139 as well as unmanned aerial vehicles. Two recessed hangars along the superstructure house large RHIBs or unmanned surface vessels.

Weapons, sensors and other equipment can be customized depending on customer requirements. A notional corvette could be equipped with a surface and anti-air warfare suite. Such a fit would comprise a 76 mm main gun, two 30 mm remotely operated cannon, 8 surface to surface missiles and 16 Barak 8 surface to air missiles with a range in excess of 70 kilometers. Defensive measures like a multi-barreled decoy launcher and an ESM system would be standard fit. Sensors would include a multifunction radar like Elta’s ELM 2258 Alpha, a fire control director for the main gun, and electro-optical sensor pods.

As expected, the OPV versions would be much less weapon- and sensor-intensive. Typical weapons would comprise a small caliber remotely operated gun mount and machine guns.

Powered by two MTU 16V1163M94 diesels, the hull is designed for a top speed in excess of 30 knots, although the sustained maximum speed is 28 knots. The ship has relatively long endurance – 21 days and a range of more than 3000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 18 knots.

Saar S-72

The armament on the Saar S-72 corvette would include a 76 mm main gun, two 30 mm remotely operated cannon, 8 surface to surface missiles and 16 Barak 8 surface to air missiles. Israel Shipyard Ltd. rendering

ISL claims that this design is the most cost-effective corvette design available today based on “price versus firepower per ton and number of crew members versus ship performance.” It is understood that from order to delivery would take 24 months for the first ship in series, with subsequent hulls delivering every 8 months.

Israel’s navy operates eight Saar 4.5 in two subclasses and two Saar 4 variants, the latter pair being more than 30 years old and possibly due for replacement. The S-72 fits nicely between the Israeli built Saar 4.5 and the U.S.-built Saar 5 corvettes which, at 85.64 meters and 1300 tons, are the world’s most heavily armed (and possibly top heavy) corvettes.

While the Israeli navy requires at least two large corvettes, it is not clear if the S-72 is in response to this requirement or one for the Saar 4 replacements, as ISL officials declined to specify potential customers other than saying “the ship is meant for any interested navy.” Clearly, operators of ISL-built ships in Africa, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere are potential customers.