Menu JTA Search

State-of-the-art submarines added to Israel’s naval arsenal

JERUSALEM, July 28 (JTA) — A new era in Israeli naval capability was ushered in with the arrival of the first of three German-made submarines in Haifa. The new Dolphin submarine is superior in speed and maneuverability to anything currently in Israel’s naval arsenal, according to Israeli officials. “It is a different kind of submarine from any I have known,” the submarine’s commander, who gave his name only as David, told Israel Army Radio. Some reports indicate that the submarine has been modified to carry cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. If Israel were attacked with unconventional weapons, the submarine would be unharmed and ready for retaliation, the reports said. Israeli defense officials refused comment on the submarine’s strategic capabilities. For three decades, there have been reports that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. Israeli leaders have repeatedly refused direct statements on the subject, saying only that the Jewish state would not be the first nation to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The submarine’s capabilities have raised concerns among Israel’s Arab neighbors. The Dolphin arrived Tuesday after a four-week, 4,000-mile journey that ended with a reception in Haifa’s harbor attended by Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak said the Dolphin would “extend the arm” of the Israeli navy. The Israel Defense Force’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, called it the “submarine of the millennium.” The Dolphin and two other submarines that are expected to arrive later this year, Leviathan and Tekuma, were built at a cost of some $300 million apiece by Germany, which offered them to Israel in return for Israel complying with an international request not to respond to Iraqi Scud attacks on the Jewish state during the 1991 Gulf War. En route to Israel, the Dolphin cruised past the site near the Greek island of Crete where the Dakar submarine was lost at sea during its maiden voyage 30 years ago. Crew members on the Dolphin scattered 69 flowers, one for each of the deceased Dakar sailors.