Israel Seeks to Extend the Reach of its Navy


To answer the increasing threat posed by the Iranian navy, Israel is looking for a substantial upgrade of its naval capabilities.

According to a UPI report, published last Monday, Israel is not only waiting for the delivery of three more submarines from Germany, it will also build two new guided missile corvettes with missile-defense capabilities.

So far the Israeli navy, the smallest branch of the Israel Defense Forces, has been purely a ‘brown water’ navy, focused exclusively on defending the shores of the home country. With the perceived threat posed by an increasingly active Iranian navy and the alleged Iranian nuclear capability, the leadership of the Israeli navy wants to be able to deal with that in the open sea.

The first step was the procurement of three DOLPHIN class submarines from Germany. They are already in service as the INS DOLPHIN, INS LEVIATHAN and INS TEKUMAH. All three boats have conventional diesel-electric propulsion systems. Three more boats are scheduled to get into service over the next years and these are improved versions with propulsion based on fuel cells which makes them essentially independent from surface air.

All six boats are capable of carrying 16 torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles. According Jane’s Defense Weekly, it is believed, that  the boats are also able to fire the Popeye Turbo cruise missile, an Israeli adaption of the US AGM-142 Have Nap standoff weapon with 1,500 km reach and a single nuclear warhead. In this configuration Israel’s submarine force would have a substantial second-strike capability in case of a Iranian nuclear attack. With six DOLPHIN boats, Israel will also be able to maintain a continuous presence off the Iranian coast.

To secure its vulnerable sea lanes Israel also wants to build two new corvettes. The plan is to buy the design from Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Germany and build the vessels in Haifa. The new corvettes will be equipped with the Arrow missile-defense system, that is able to target incoming warheads at a distance of several hundred kilometers.

But not everybody in the Israeli military is happy with the money spent for the navy. Each DOLPHIN boat costs $ 500 M (although some were delivered free of charge by the Germans, the others are heavily subsidized by them) and the corvettes will be another $ 300 M each. Top-rank soldiers opposed the purchase of the sixth sub from Germany to divert more money to the ground and air forces.

The air force has already ordered 20 F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft for a total of $ 2.75 B from the US and now apparently is looking to get 20 more.

With several competitors for strategic influence in the region and a lot of money available for some of them, it almost looks like the Middle East on the verge of an arms race.

(Source: Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft, UPI, Naval Technology; 10 August 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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