TEL AVIV — After more than a decade of discussions, the Israeli Navy is in contract negotiations with the US Navy to purchase 76mm rapid-fire guns from Italian defense contractor Oto Melara, a subsidiary of Leonardo-Finmeccanica.
The estimated $100 million foreign military sale will be financed through US military aid and delivered via the US Navy from the Italian firm's North American facility based in Largo, Florida.
In interviews here, Israeli Navy officers said the new guns would equip Israel's surface fleet of Sa'ar-4.5 vessels, US-built Sa'ar-5 corvettes and four new Sa'ar-6 corvettes now under contract with the German shipyard ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.
"We've been waiting for this gun for many, many years," an Israel Navy captain responsible for surface ship upgrades told Defense News.
He noted that the same Oto Melara systems were produced in the United States for the Egyptian Navy.
"Now it's our turn," he said.
According to Leonardo’s website, the 76mm Super Rapid gun mount is a light weight, multimission naval artillery system capable of firing in single-shot mode or 120 rounds per minute at ranges up to 10 nautical miles. "The 76/62 SR is the only medium caliber naval gun available in the world capable of sustained fire, which is a fundamental requirement in any scenario involving the simultaneous engagement of multiple maneuvering targets," the firm said.
Stephen Bryen, a former president of Finmeccania North America, said the accurate, rapid-fire system would improve Israel’s response against a spectrum of threats, including the C-802 that struck the INS Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to Bryen, the system is "ideal" for the "swarming boat problem" Israel could face in any future engagement with Iran.
"If you look at the Iranian Navy, they have all these small boats, equipped with Chinese missiles. They’re fast, and when deployed as swarms, it’s very hard to stop them if you don’t have a fairly long-range, rapid fire weapon."
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.