ABOARD INS LAHAV --- After a coronavirus-related delay, Israel's navy is preparing for the long-awaited arrival of its next generation of missile boats — giving it a powerful new tool to defend its strategic natural gas industry from the threat of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The first missile boat of "Project Magen" is scheduled to arrive by early December, with three more of the German-made corvettes scheduled to arrive over the next two years.
"It's bigger. It's newer. It's faster. It's better," said Rear Adm. Eyal Harel, head of Israeli naval operations, during a rare tour of Israel's offshore Leviathan gas field. A massive gas platform stood just a few hundred meters (yards) away.
The vessels, commonly known as the "Saar 6," will be at the forefront of Israeli efforts to protect its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The natural gas industry, seen as a national asset, is at the heart of those efforts.
Over a decade after finding sizeable reserves off its Mediterranean coast, Israel now generates some 60% of its electricity from natural gas, according to the national electric company, and has begun to export gas to its Arab neighbors Jordan and Egypt. Israel is also pursuing a project with Greece and Cyprus in hopes of creating an Eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline to Europe.
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