TEL AVIV — Israel on Monday signed a deal to buy four navy patrol boats from Germany's ThyssenKrupp to protect its offshore gas installations, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

The deal, valued at €430 million ($480 million), will significantly improve the navy's ability to protect natural gas fields in the Mediterranean.

"This morning, we signed a contract with the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems which is going to provide us with four corvettes in the next five years," Yaalon told a joint news conference in Tel Aviv with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen.

"Thanks to this agreement we will be able to double our ability to defend our gas platforms," he added.

The ministry said Berlin would finance €115 million of the transaction by means of a grant — around a quarter of the cost.

ThyssenKrupp had also committed to carry out reciprocal purchasing in Israel to the tune of 700 million shekels ($181 million/€162 million), it said.

The acquisition would enhance Israel's ability to protect its strategic assets and put its navy "on a par with the world's leading navies," Yaalon said in a statement.

On Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin began a state visit to Germany to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Germany is Israel's biggest trading partner in Europe.

In September, Israel received delivery of a Dolphin 2 submarine from Germany, raising the total number in its fleet to four. A third of the cost was also funded by Germany as part of its military aid to Israel.

The sub, the most sophisticated in Israel's fleet, can be equipped with missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

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