"Approaching the Iranian Shore by Boat"

Protector-class Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) on assignment, far from Israel’s coast
"Protector" - Unmanned Surface Vehicles - USV'S (Photo: Rafael) "Protector" - Unmanned Surface Vehicles - USV'S (Photo: Rafael)

The Israeli Navy operates unmanned stealth vessels in the Persian Gulf, mainly for espionage and surveillance of Iranian activity. Foreign reports also claim that a “Protector”-class unmanned surface vessel (USV), developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, was purchased by Singapore and is in active service in its fleet. Protector is a fast commercial-class boat equipped with Rafael’s sensors for target detection in maritime conditions. The shore-activated day/night cameras and sensors are able to detect any approaching threat.

The vessel supports a one-ton load, which enables Rafael to equip it with almost all of its detection and identification systems. These include microphones and loudspeakers that allow the shore-based control post to communicate with suspicious vessels at sea.

In addition, an automatic weapon—the “Typhoon”—can be mounted on the USV. (Typhoon was originally developed for use inside an armored vehicle, so the shooter would not be compromised by taking an outside position).

Protector is nine meters long and can zip through the water at 70 kmh. According to reports, the USV enters the water from manned vessels such as missile boats or submarines and approaches the coast to carry out assignments, such as intelligence gathering.

In July this year, two Israeli missile boats—the INS Eilat and INS Hanit—openly passed though the Suez Canal and sailed south to the Red Sea. The voyage was undoubtedly coordinated with the Egyptian authorities. In late June, reports appeared that an Israeli “Dolphin”-class submarine had sailed through the Suez Canal.

For Israel, a naval presence in the Red Sea is of utmost importance, since it allows the navy to intensify its operations against arms smuggling from Iran to Gaza (via Sudan and Egypt). Also, the Red Sea route shortens Israel’s access to the Persian Gulf—its current focus given Iran’s nuclear program and long-range missile capabilities.


The article appears in the new issue of the magazine