Israel enhances Seahawk sensors and weapons suite
New and evolving threats appear to have prompted a change in the sensor and weapon package designed for Seahawk SH-60F helicopters that will be deployed by the Israeli Navy (IN) on its four new Sa’ar 6 missile corvettes.
Israel obtained eight of the helicopters under the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme.
The upgraded package, defined by the IN and Israeli Air Force (IAF), includes an Elta ELM-family maritime radar and other classified payloads, to enable the Seahawk to perform counter-terrorism and ASW missions alongside other naval assets and airborne platforms such as the Heron 1 maritime patrol and surveillance UAV.
Israeli sources said that the sensor package resembles the one installed on the AS 565 helicopters operated jointly by the IAF and IN, although there are additional capabilities for the SH-60F (pictured in USN service).
As for the new threats that prompted the sensor upgrade, Israeli sources told Shephard (on condition of anonymity) that they include the Iranian Ghadir-class midget submarine.
The Ghadir class is designed for operations in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf but there is the danger that a midget submarine or UCAV could be launched from a mothership to attack Israeli energy installations in the Mediterranean.
A Ghadir-class boat fired a Jask-2 missile during the Iranian Zolfaghar-99 exercise in September 2020. Jask-2 has a firing range of only 35km but an extended-range version called Jask-3 is being developed.
Shephard understands that the revised sensor package on the Seahawk is intended to enable very early detection so that the mothership can be destroyed.
The IAF has equipped its AH-64D combat helicopters with different variants of the Rafael Spike missile. Sources said that it is very likely that these missiles will also be carried by the Seahawks.
Israel wanted to arm the Seahawks to enable rapid responses when threats emerge. The helicopters will be capable of integrated operations with the weapon systems to be carried by the new corvettes (such as anti-ship missiles and Barak 8 air defence missiles in C-Dome point defence systems).
In turn, the Sa’ar 6 vessels will be able to allocate targets for the machine guns and torpedoes carried on board the Seahawks.
The first-in-class Sa’ar 6 vessel, INS Magen, arrived at Haifa naval base in December 2020.
Shephard Defence Insight notes that the three remaining vessels – Oz, Atzmaut and Nitzahon – will be handed over by TKMS and delivered to the Israeli Navy by the end of 2021, with all four corvettes expected to enter service by late 2023.
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