First Naval Missiles Battle in History
night of October 6/7th 1973

Captain Michael(Yomi)led 5 Israeli missile boats into the first battle in naval history that anti ship missiles were used by both sides, and electronic warfare deception measures were taken. For his leadership and actions at the naval battle of Latakia Captain Barkai was awarded with the Israeli Citation of Exemplary (Ot HaMofet).

Michael Barkai (Yomi) 
CIC of the Israeli Navy(1975-1978)

On the first night of the Yom Kippur War(6/7 October 1973), a group of 5 Israeli missile boats left the port of Haifa and rushed in full speed north, towards the Syrian main naval base of Latakia. (2)The group moved in 2 parallel columns of three ships out at sea(Miznak-Blast, Ga'ash-Storm, Hanit-Lance) and two more closer to the shore (Mivtach-Reliance, Reshef-Spark).

The Israeli boats were armed with the Israeli developed and manufactured , the Gabriel. The Gabriel had not been used yet in a real battle and it performance in combat was still unknown. It was known that the range of the Gabriel was half of the effective range of the missiles the Syrians were using, the Soviet SS-N-2 Styx.

INS Gaash
INS Gaash. Notice the 76mm gun in the bow and the 2 sets of Gabriel launchers behind the bridge.

Soviet Styx anti-ship missile.

INS Miznak
INS Miznak

Gabriel anti-ship missile
A Gabriel is fired from an Israeli missile boat

Therefore, the Israeli ships in order to use their missiles effectively, would have to close a gap of about 20 kilometers, unable to use their short range missiles, and under threat of their enemies longer range missiles.

In order to eliminate that range handicap, the Israelis developed a series of electronic counter measures, Measures which had never been used in any real-combat. The next 2 hours will tell which conception was right.

syrian torpedo boat
Syrian Torpedo-boat

syrian mine swiper
Syrian minesweeper

At 22:28 hours a surface contact appeared on the Israelis radar screens, north of their position. Not identified yet, the Israelis fired a salvo of 76mm shells over the target's bow, to which it responded with fire. (3)It was identified a Syrian torpedo boat(K-123). The torpedo boat was used as a warning post for the main force of 3 missile boats waiting in an ambush close to the port of Latakia.(4)The Hanit and the Miznak opened fire with their 76mm gun. The Syrian torpedo boat was sent to the bottom in minutes and the Israel force continued its dash towards the Syrian shore.

As the force turned starboard, towards the Syrian shore another radar contact was picked up, (6)this time 25 kilometers northeast of their position. Although out of range for the Gabriel, one missile was fired as the target(Minesweeper) was running for the shore. The missile missed and hit the sea. Nevertheless the Israelis weren't giving up on their prey. As they closed the range to 18 kilometers another 2 Gabriel missiles were fired hitting the 560 ton Minesweeper. A third Gabriel finished the work, sending her to her death.

A Komar class boat launches a Styx anti-ship missile

An Osa class boat  launches a Syks anti-ship missile.

Although marked already 2 targets, Captain Barkai knew that the real challenge of Osa and Komar Russian made missile boats are still waiting ahead of him.

At 23:30 hours, Three targets appeared on the radar screens. They were 3 Syrian missile boats, one Osa and two Komars. (5) As the Israeli boats neared the coast, the Syrians fired their missiles at a range from which the Israelis were helpless.

As the Styx missiles drew closer, the Israelis began engaging their electronic counter and disrupting measures. They fired chaff rockets and used the jamming systems to send out false radar signals in an attempt to confuse the computers of the approaching missiles. This was the first time these Israeli-built systems were used in combat and the results were predictable: All missiles fired by the Syrians missed their targets. Their computers were confused, and they flew harmlessly overhead the Israeli boats and dove into the sea.

Gabriel anti-ship missile
Gabriel, anti-ship missile is fired from its launcher

Osa class Soviet missile boat

Only the Osa had missiles left. The 2 Komars tried to find shelter in the safe waters of Latakia. It was too late, the fast Israeli boats stormed in full speed. (7) Once in range, a lethal salvo of Gabriel missiles was fired. All 3 Syrian missile boats were hit with the 150kg warhead of 5 Gabriel missiles. 2 of them were sunk immediately and the (8) third ship tried to escape in panic towards the coast.

The last Komar became stuck in shallow waters and became a sitting duck for Israeli cannons. The 76mm guns finished the work of the Gabriel, leaving the Komar in flames on the coast south to Latakia.

At 26 minutes after midnight, the first naval missile battle in history was over. 2 hours after the battle begun, the five Israeli victorious missiles boats dashed home(9), unharmed and proud of their triumph.

battle of Latakia