By Keith Johnson -
Israel’s submarine fleet is by far the most secretive of its strategic long-range manned arsenals. Unlike the Jewish state’s other seafaring crafts, these submersibles never dock in any ports except their own, and their missions are such highly guarded secrets that only a few, even on board, are privy to what their assignment is and where it will next take them.
“Nobody knows where you are except for your crew and your direct commanders,” said a former “Lt. Col. Oded” in a recent interview with Israel’s Ynet news service. “Even your family doesn’t know. They don’t know what you’re doing or when you’ll be back. They know nothing.”
Oded says he served 20 years in the Israeli navy and was commander of the Leviathan, one of two state-of-the-art 800-class Dolphin submarines that were donated to Israel by the German government. The Israelis later bought a third Dolphin for $350 million under an agreement in which German taxpayers would absorb 50 percent of the cost.
Though the whereabouts of these mobile doomsday machines are generally kept under wraps, the Israelis occasionally make their presence known. When that happens, the message is clear that they mean business and are prepared to strike at any given moment. That’s precisely what happened in July 2009 when Israel sent one of its Dolphins on a high-profile cruise of the Suez Canal. Although the official line out of Israel was that they were merely conducting standard naval drills, it was clear to all that the real purpose of their presence was to flaunt their strategic reach in Iran’s face.
In June 2010, all three of Israel’s Dolphins arrived off the coast of the vilified Persian nation. The Sunday Times reported, “The submarines of Flotilla 7—Dolphin, Tekuma and Leviathan—[were] sent in response to Israeli fears that ballistic missiles developed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, a political and military organization in Lebanon, could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers.”
The article added, “The deployment is designed to act as a deterrent, gather intelligence and potentially to land Mossad agents.”
It’s widely believed that these three submarines are often rotated, with only one maintaining a constant vigil in the region for any extended period.
According to a recent UPI article, “Five Dolphins is considered the minimum number required to keep two boats on patrol off Iran at all times.”
That’s why, to bring the fleet up to their desired quota, two more Dolphins are being constructed for Israel under a deal reached in 2006 whereby the German government agreed to absorb one-third of a total $1.27 billion price tag.
In July 2011, a deal was finalized for a sixth Dolphin submarine that will again be subsidized by Germany under the same arrangement. According to Der Spiegel, the subsidy was being offered to Israel as part of reparations for the “Holocaust.” The first of the three is slated for delivery to Israel by 2012.
Unlike Iran, Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has illicitly pursued a weapons program that, by some estimates, has put more than 600 nuclear-tipped warheads at its disposal.