The Israelis chose Monday, May 11, the Nation's 22nd Independence Anniversary, as the day for the first public display of its seaborne Gabriel surface missiles.
The Israelis chose Monday, May 11, the Nation's 22nd Independence Anniversary, as the day for the first public display of its seaborne Gabriel surface missiles. The Israeli-built missiles were fitted to six French-built Saar gunboats which sailed out from israel's main port, Haifa, and cruised along the coast. Israeli navel commanders say they are more than a match for missiles used by the Egyptian navy. Other Independence Day highlights in Haifa included a parachute drop by frogmen and paratroopers, and a fly-past of aircraft.
Observers in Israel considered the display of the Gabriel missile was the most significant element in the Anniversary celebrations, since it is in naval power that Israel has so far shown its greatest weakness.
Israeli naval officers say the Gabriel, with its 150-kilo (330 lb.) warhead makes Israel's missile boats more than a match for the Soviet-built Egyptian Osa and Komar craft equipped with short-range Styx missiles.
The Gabriel is only half the length of the Styx at 3.35 metres, (10 ft.). It is also lighter, and has a better range. It is supersonic, while the Styx is subsonic, and unlike the Styx it is not visible in flight.
Thousands of people took up vantage points on Mount Carmel over-looking Haifa, when the six Saar gunboats began their cruise along a 80 mile (120-kilometre) stretch of coast as far as Ashdod in the south. Each gunboat was equipped with eight Gabriels.
Also at Haifa, landing craft sped out from the port to collect from the water a mass drop of paratroopers and frogmen, with their supplies. Thousands of spectators watched the spectacle from the shore.
The Israeli air-force's contribution was no less enthusiastically received, as eight formations of Phantom Fighter-bombers, Skyhawks and Fouga-Magisters roared over the country's main towns, trailing vapour plumes of blue and white-the country's national colours. It was the first time the long-range Phantom the most powerful plane in Israel's armoury, has taken part in an Independence Day Fly-past.
Israel is hoping that its recent statement that Soviet pilots were flying operational missions over Egypt will persuade President Nixon to give it more Phantom planes.