As Israeli airstrikes on Gaza continue and ground troops assemble for an expected push into the Gaza Strip to counter Hamas militants operating in the enclave, the Israeli Navy has also been active, utilising its Sa’ar 6 corvettes for the first time in combat.

According to a 14 October statement from the Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli Navy’s Sa’ar 6 corvettes struck a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility. In a short video released to the media, an unidentified Sa’ar 6 corvette, travelling at slow speeds, is seen firing its main gun system.

Multiple rounds are seen being fired in the short clip, purportedly at Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, with a cut showing the impact of the rounds on ground targets.

The Sa’ar 6 corvettes include a series of four warships built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) for the Israeli Navy. Based on the German MEKO 100 patrol corvette, the Saar 6 class is designed to offer enhanced attack capabilities compared with its predecessor Sa’ar 5-class corvettes

The first-in-class INS Magen was commissioned into service in 2020, followed by INS Oz (2021), and INS Atzmaut (2021). The final vessel, INS Nitzachon, is due to be commissioned at some point in 2023.

Due to the poor quality of the imagery, it is not clear which vessel is pictured firing its main gun weapon system. All four vessels have been fitted with an OTO 76/62 Super Rapid (SR) 76mm main gun, produced by Leonardo.

The firing rate of the OTO 76/62 SR can be up to 120 rounds per minute; however, in operational conditions rounds will be fired in salvos and not sustained beyond a small handful. In the released video, the unnamed Sa’ar 6 corvette is seen firing two salvos of two and six rounds, although it cannot be determined whether this represented a portion, or the sum total, of rounds fired.

Grainy imagery shows the impact of naval gunfire on shore targets in Gaza. Credit: Israel Defense Forces

According to manufacturer Leonardo a typical loadout configuration will see 80 rounds maintained within the gun system, after which a reload would be required.

The maximum range of the OTO 76/62 SR depends on the type of ammunition being used, with the base set at 16km. This increases to 20km with the OTO SAPOMER ammunition, and up to 40km with the guided long-range OTO Vulcano 76 round, currently in development.

Sa’ar 6-class corvette development

The Israeli Ministry of Defence placed an order with TKMS for four new patrol vessels in January 2015, which was finalised in May 2015. The cost of construction at the time was estimated at $480m (€455.64m), of which two-thirds was to be paid by Israel with the German Government covering the remaining third.

The steel-cutting ceremony of the first ship was held in February 2018. The hull and superstructures of the ships were manufactured at TKMS’ shipbuilding facility in Kiel, Germany, while the outfitting of combat systems, sensors and other subsystems was performed in Israel using Israel Shipyards’ floating dock facilities.

As is typical with Israeli warships, the Sa’ar 6 corvettes are fitted with an extensive range of air and surface attack capabilities. Each vessel is thought to be fitted with up to 40 Barak 8 surface-to-air missiles amidships for air defence purposes, with two C-Dome naval point weapon systems to defeat short-range rockets.

In addition to the OTO 76/62 SR, the Sa’ar 6 carry up to 16 anti-ship missiles such as the Gabriel, RGM-84 Harpoon and RBS-15 Mk 3 to attack enemy ships and boats.

Additional reporting from Joe Charlaff in Jerusalem.