U.S. Navy Enterprise Carrier Strike Group
U.S. Navy ships of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group are seen underway in close formation in the Red Sea in this February 16, 2011 handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy Handout) Reuters

Israel has began receiving assistance from Germany as part of a military aid program, including four Patriot missile batteries. Details were disclosed by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen at a joint news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Germany also will supply Israel with four missile boats so Israel can bolster security at offshore natural-gas drilling platforms in the Mediterranean Sea. A senior Israel navy officer recently stated that the drilling platforms are facing threats from groups like Hezbollah, Haretz reports.

The contract for missile boats was signed by Dan Harel, director general of the Israeli defense ministry, and Andreas Burmester, CEO of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The deal is being subsidized by the German government, with the shipping firm set to receive a $128 million grant.

The German-made corvette warships will be delivered within five years and add significant firepower to Israel's navy. "The deal signed today is an event of the utmost significance that dramatically upgrades the navy's capabilities of defending the state of Israel's strategic sites in the gas realm," Harel said.

Adm. Ram Rotberg, Israel’s navy chief, said the corvettes would be "Saar 6" missile boats with major capability improvements over current vessels. So, far the biggest warships in Israel are "Saar 5" missile boats, with half the operational range of the Saar 6 models.

The new missile boats will enhance security in Israel’s huge untapped gas fields, which cover 23,000 square kilometers of sea -- an area greater than its land territory. Israeli security planners say they are aware of both seaborne and aerial threats to the gas facilities from various terror groups, so an expansion of naval power was a high priority.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira and his team also noted that the drilling platforms needed better protection because of growing threats in the area.

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