In a revision of Rabinovich's 1988 first edition, the author documents the technological innovations led by Israel's navy to introduce tactical changes that eventually had a strategic impact. The book touches on many of the initial issues, options, and debates the Israeli navy encountered when first created while the most interesting sections focus on the development of an Israeli sea-to-sea missile and its use during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As in other cases in military history, the author highlights how political backing was crucial in implementing the necessary changes.
During that war, Israel's military was ill-prepared, but the exception was the Israeli navy. Until 1973, it played a marginal, low-priority role in Israel's security landscape, strategic outlook, and budgets. Yet, it planned for years for the possibility of war and won every naval battle to worldwide accolades.
Rabinovich recounts how innovative Israeli naval officers developed the concept of the missile boat with approval from the Ministry of Defense (primarily Shimon Peres) and harnessed modest resources to complete the project. Israel's defense establishment helped the navy procure the necessary equipment from abroad, and finally, smuggled the boats from Cherbourg to Israel despite a French embargo.
In 1960, opposing larger and better equipped navies, including Soviet destroyers and missile boats, Israel's naval command faced immense challenges. Neither the required missiles nor suitable boats existed in Western arsenals. So the Israelis developed a weapons system indigenously. The German government feared repercussions from Arab governments and refused to build a revised version of the Jaguar fast-attack craft for the Israelis. Instead, Israeli naval engineers modified the German design and moved construction to a French shipyard in Cherbourg. The Gabriel missile was developed for use with these boats.
Rabinovich describes how once the technological challenges were met, Israel's naval officers developed battle tactics to accommodate the new weapons system and trained for a variety of scenarios. They achieved optimal readiness only a few months before the 1973 war. Syrian and Egyptian boats outnumbered their Israeli counterparts by more than two to one, and their missiles had more than twice the range of the Gabriel. Nevertheless, the Israeli missile boat flotilla came through the war with no losses while sinking almost every Arab ship it encountered.
The knowledge gained building the Saar class Cherbourg boats was essential for construction of the Haifa shipyards, which later produced larger vessels. Similarly, the flourishing Israeli radar industry benefited from the Saar project.
Despite several sections not relevant to the boat-missile project, this is a fascinating and accessible book most suitable for lay readers and analysts interested in how military innovation occurs, as well as for followers of the doctrinal and technological evolution of the Israel Defense Forces.