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Israel Submarine Capabilities


Dolphin Submarine  

Based at Haifa, the Israeli Navy (IN) currently operates four modern, diesel-electric, Dolphin-class submarines designed and constructed by Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW). The first three were commissioned between 1999 and 2000; two were donated by Germany and the cost of the third was split between Germany and Israel. The fourth and fifth submarines, agreed to in 2006, are advanced Dolphin-class vessels equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP); the INS Tanin was delivered to the Israeli Navy in May 2012. The INS Rahav is scheduled to arrive in Israel sometime in 2014 after sea trials and weapons system integration. [1] In February 2012, Germany and Israel also issued a contract for a sixth AIP-equipped Dolphin submarine, which is currently being constructed at the HDW shipyard. The German government is reportedly covering a third of the total $1.8 billion cost of the three advanced Dolphin-class vessels. [2]

Submarine Tables for Israel
 

Before obtaining the Dolphins, the IN depended upon three Gal-class submarines, designed by Germany for Israel, and constructed at the Vickers Shipyard in the United Kingdom between 1973 and 1977. The Gal-class is a modified Type 206A coastal submarine. The Gals were decommissioned when the Dolphins were commissioned into the Israeli Navy, and Israel had planned to sell the vessels. However, no buyer was found and one of the boats was returned to Israel, where it is currently exhibited at the Haifa Naval Museum. [3]

As previous conflicts involving Israel began with naval blockades, Israel views its submarine force as critical to national security. Israel's submarines are also intended to exercise sea control over the Eastern Mediterranean and secure sea lines of communication; Israel is dependent on imports of grain, crude oil, and raw materials. [4] There has been consistent speculation that Israel's submarines could be refitted to carry missiles armed with nuclear weapons in order for the country to maintain a survivable second-strike option. Acknowledging Israel's lack of strategic depth, officials have asserted that only submarines can provide a secure weapons platform in the future. [5]


Gal (Type 540) Submarine  

The arming of Israel's submarines has received a great deal of attention. While HDW has stated that Israel's Dolphin-class submarines were equipped with weapon systems similar to those installed on other diesel-electric submarines, various sources have alleged that upon their arrival in Israel, the submarines were modified, and fitted with cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. [6] The three initial Dolphin-class submarines were designed in accordance with Israeli demands, and include a "wet and dry" compartment for special operations, as well as four 650mm torpedo tubes, which could be used for Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs). [7] The German Defense Ministry has stated that these larger tubes were intended to fire Harpoons; upon delivery to Israel, liners were to be fitted to decrease the diameter of the tubes to accommodate the 533mm Harpoon containers. However, the Dolphin-class is equipped with six 533mm torpedo tubes as well, which are capable of launching Harpoons. [8] It seems possible, therefore, that the 650mm tubes might have been designed to accommodate indigenously built, long-range SLCMs. The German government has stated that it does not have information on whether Israel installed different equipment on the submarines after delivery, although former German officials have acknowledged that they assumed that Israel intended to equip the submarines with nuclear weapons. [9]

Some reports suggest that Israel has adapted Harpoon cruise missiles, which have a range of 130 kilometers, to carry an indigenously developed nuclear warhead and guidance system, though other experts argue that such modifications to a Harpoon missile are not feasible. [10] Others believe that Israel has developed an indigenous cruise missile with a range of 320 kilometers that could be a version of Rafael Armament Development Authority's Popeye turbo cruise missile. [11] Still others believe that the missile may be a version of the Gabriel 4LR produced by Israel Aircraft Industries, which could be launched in 533mm torpedo tubes similar to the Harpoon. [12] Such speculation was further fueled by an unconfirmed test of a nuclear-capable, submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) in the Indian Ocean in 2000. Some reports claimed targets 1,500 kilometers away were hit. [13] Such a range, however, implies an entirely new type of missile. [14] In June 2002, former State Department and Pentagon officials confirmed that the U.S. Navy observed Israeli missile tests in the Indian Ocean in 2000, and that the Dolphin-class vessels have been fitted with nuclear-capable cruise missiles of a new design. [15] However, the Israeli Defense Forces have consistently denied any such missile tests. [16]

In October 2003, unidentified senior U.S. and Israeli officials were quoted as saying that Israel had successfully modified nuclear warheads to fit its Harpoon missiles. [17] Whatever the missile currently arming Israel's Dolphin-class submarines, it seems clear that Israel is interested in the acquisition of new cruise missiles. Its request for U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles was rejected by the Clinton administration in 2000, since such a sale would have violated the Missile Technology Control Regime, which prohibits the transfer of missiles with a range exceeding 300 kilometers. [18]

The modernized Dolphin-class combines a conventional diesel led-acid battery system and an air-independent propulsion system (AIP) which makes the vessel extremely quiet and allows it to remain submerged for up to a week without surfacing. [19] It is said to have a maximum speed of 20 knots, and a range of 4,500km. [20] The new boats will be equipped with 650mm torpedo tubes—again leading to much speculation that the Israelis intend to outfit the submarines with nuclear-armed cruise missiles. [21]

Sources:
[1] Yaakov Katz, "Israel Gets Fourth Sub from Germany," Jerusalem Post, 4 May 2012, www.lexisnexis.com; Barbara Opall-Rome, "Israel Inaugurates 5th Dolphin Class Sub," Defense News, 29 April 2013, www.defensenews.com.
[2] Yaakov Katz, "J'lem and Berlin Sign Contract for Sixth Submarine," Jerusalem Post, 5 February 2012, www.jpost.com; Yaakov Lappin, "Israel's 5th Dolphin Class submarine unveiled in Germany," Jerusalem Post, 29 April 2013, www.jpost.com.
[3] "Israel: Military Gal," Global Security Network, www.globalsecurity.com.
[4] Interview with Israel Navy Commander Major General Alex Tal by Alex Fishman, "If Israel wants to hide anything-it will be at sea," Yedi'ot Aharonot, 31 December 1999, in "Israel: outgoing Navy Chief on subs, Syria Mediterranean," FBIS Document TA0201154800.
[5] Interview with Israel Navy Commander Major General Alex Tal by Alex Fishman, "If Israel wants to hide anything-it will be at sea," Yedi'ot Aharonot, 31 December 1999, in "Israel: outgoing Navy Chief on subs, Syria Mediterranean," FBIS Document TA0201154800.
[6] Douglas Frantz, "Israel Extends Nuclear Weapons Capability," Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2003; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, http://web.lexis-nexis.com; "Popeye Turbo," www.israeli.weapons.com.
[7] Interview with Israel Navy Commander Major General Alex Tal by Alex Fishman, "If Israel wants to hide anything--it will be at sea," Yedi'ot Aharonot, December 31, 1999; in "Israel: outgoing Navy Chief on subs, Syria, Mediterranean," FBIS Document TA0201154800.
[8] Hubert Wetzel, "Delfin mit übergrossem Kanonenrohr," Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 1, 1999; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, http://web.lexis-nexis.com.
[9] "Operation Samson: Israel's Deployment of Nuclear Missiles on Submarines from Germany," Der Spiegel, 4 June 2012, www.spiegel.de; "Nuclear armament with German help," Der Spiegel, October 30, 2000; in "Germany proves 'massive support' to Israel's nuclear weapons program," FBIS Document EUP20001030000465.
[10] Michael Nitz, "First Dolphins move in on Israeli Navy," International Defense Review, Vol. 32, No. 9, September 1, 1999.
[11] Ed Blanche, "Israel denies sub-launched missile tests," Jane's Missile and Rockets, August 1, 2000.
[12] "Gabriel (Israel), Offensive Weapons," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, 27 July 2011, http://articles.janes.com.
[13] Ed Blanche, "Israel denies sub-launched missile tests," Jane's Missile and Rockets, August 1, 2000; Uzi Mahnaimi and Matthew Campbell, "Israel Makes Nuclear Waves with Submarine Missile Test," Sunday Times, June 18, 2000; in "UK weekly details Israel's secret cruise missile test," FBIS Document EUP20000618000010.
[14] Ed Blanche, "Israel denies sub-launched missile tests," Jane's Missile and Rockets, August 1, 2000; "Gabriel," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, August 28, 2003; Norman Friedman, "Israelis test sub-launched cruise missile," United States Naval Institute Proceedings, August 2000, Vol. 126, No. 2, pp. 6-7; in ProQuest Information and Learning Company, http://proquest.umi.com.
[15] "Gabriel," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, August 28, 2003.
[16] Ed Blanche, "Israel denies sub-launched missile tests," Jane's Missile and Rockets, August 1, 2000; Dani Shalom, "IDF denies testing cruise missile launch from submarine," Hatzofe, June 19, 2000, in "IDF spokesman - Sunday Times' cruise missile launch report 'totally unfounded'," FBIS Document GMP20000619000070; Uzi Mahnaimi and Matthew Campbell, "Israel Makes Nuclear Waves with Submarine Missile Test," Sunday Times, June 18, 2000, in "UK weekly details Israel's secret cruise missile test," FBIS Document EUP20000618000010.
[17] Douglas Frantz, "Israel adds fuel to nuclear dispute," Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2003.
[18] "Popeye Turbo," www.israeli.weapons.com.
[19] Yakov Katz, "Exclusive Israel Buys 2 German subs," The Jerusalem Post, 23 August 2006, www.jpost.com; Ramit Plushnick-Masti, "Israel Buys 2 Nuclear-Capable Submarines," The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com.
[20] Yakov Katz, "Exclusive Israel Buys 2 German subs," The Jerusalem Post, 23 August 2006, www.jpost.com; Manlio Dinucci, "Israel, Iran in Dolphin's cross hairs, War game in Red Sea," Center for Research on Globalization, www.globalresearch.ca.
[21] Hinnerk Berlekamp, "U-Boote Atomwaffenträger für Israel?" Berliner Zeitung, January 30, 2006; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, http://web.lexis-nexis.com.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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