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Eilat Destroyer

The Israeli-converted vintage World War II British Destroyer was formerly known by the British as HMS Zealous. During World War II the ship had accompanied British convoys to Russia bearing vital wartime supplies over one of the stretches of water in the war to assist Russia to survive their common enemy after June 1941, Hitler's Germany. In the 1940's HMS Zealous was a formidable ship. The Israelis had purchased her and renamed the ship the K40 Eilat.

HMS Zodiac also served with the Israeli Navy and was of the same class - she was then renamed K42 Jaffa [there was no K41]. These were the only Z Class ships tranferred to israel. The Egyptian Navy also received two of the ex-Royal Navy W & Z CLASS DD's: HMS MYNGS R.06 - Renamed EL QAHAR, and HMS ZENTIH R.95 - Renamed EL FATEH.

If the Israeli Navy had been debating whether to upgrade her fleet or not, the events of 21 October 1967 definitely influenced her thinking. On that day, as the Eilat was 14 miles off of Egypt's Port Said, two Russian-built Egyptian missile boats lay in wait armed with Styx missiles. The Egyptians had been tracking the Eilat all day with Russian advisers aboard. Only when the Russians were convinced that they could hit the Eilat did they permit the Egyptian seamen to fire on the Israeli ship.

There were 191 Israeli officers and men aboard the ship, and they began firing at will. It was useless. The two missiles struck the Eilat and nearly split the ship in two. The men struggled to keep the ship seaworthy for the next two hours, increasingly to little avail. Two hours later another missile hit the ship. A fourth and last missile fired at the ship hit the water, and the underwater shock waves injured many of the survivors. Somehow, of the 190 sailors aboard the Eilat, 152 survived. Of them, 41 were wounded. Forty-seven Israeli sailors were killed.

The sinking of the Eilat was not highly publicized at the time, for reasons of prestige, but its impact was enormous. It galvanized the Israeli Navy into seeking out more and better naval craft, more suited to the modern conditions of missile combat. The day of the great warship - for the Israelis at least (but not for the Great Powers) - was over. Israel would be looking for small and efficient ships able to patrol her shores and undertake offshore operations at high speed, while at the same time able to evade enemy tracking and missiles as much as possible. The new ships would also have to have more offensive capabilities than they previously had - namely, the new generation of ships would need to be equipped with missiles.

Type Destroyer
Displacement 1710 BRT
Length 363 feet
Complement 186 men
Armament As designed;
  • 4 4.5" guns (4x1)
  • 2 40mm AA (1x2)
  • 6 20mm AA (2x2, 2x1)
  • 8 21" torpedo tubes
  • Max speed 37 knots
    Engines Geared turbines, 2 shafts
    Power 40000 HP

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    Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:52:04 ZULU