The fact that Israel has nuclear weapons became public quite recently, although Tel Aviv has been concealing this fact carefully for several decades with the support of the United States and several Western European countries. Some Western experts estimate that the Jewish state may dispose of over 400 nuclear warheads which were created in the underground bunkers of a nuclear centre in Dimona (in the desert of Negev) and other secret laboratories. Obviously such a nuclear arsenal is unjustifiably big for a country declaring a commitment to its defensive policy instead of offensive one. According to some experts, these nuclear weapons were adopted by the Israeli army, including in the submarines carrying out continuous watch in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
Although almost everything regarding Israel’s submarine fleet has been kept in secret in this country, it has nevertheless been reported, in the recent edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, that the Federal Safety Council approved the delivery of the fifth submarine of Dolphin Project, made in the shipyards of Thyssen Krupp, to Israel.
The delivery of Dolphin-class submarines to Israel (4 were already delivered and the country is preparing for the reception of the fifth and sixth in the near future) has always been a contentious issue for German politicians. And not only because of the high-cost of the projects. They are the single most expensive combat systems in the armed forces of Israel and are estimated be worth more than $700 million each. As in the case of previous delivery of German submarines, it is expected that Germany will finance approximately one third of the total cost of the submarine, though it should be mentioned that the first two submarines were given to Israel by Germany free of charge as a “reimbursement of historical debt for the Holocaust.”
However, the concern over the delivery of these submarines to Israel is largely caused by the fact that these ships are equipped with air independent power units with hydrogen fuel cells, have considerable autonomy of underwater placement and become almost invulnerable. And in the case of equipping them with nuclear weapons, they take on significant meaning for the use in military operations. The speculation that through the adoption of the Dolphins, Israel has managed to equip the Naval Forces with nuclear warheads including ICB cruise missiles comes from the Los Angeles Times article of 12/10/2003 that cited two anonymous sources in the US administration (who for obvious reasons left no comment) as well as other publications about Israeli-made cruise missile testing with a range of 950 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka.
However, in addition to the possible use of offensive arms, including nuclear ones, the Israel Underwater Navy is faced with tasks such as, for example, the covert transportation of frogmen and raiding parties to the enemy’s coast (remember that similar successful raids using submarines were repeatedly carried out during the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War of 1973). With the use of submarines, especially of the Dolphin-class, it is possible to successfully conduct a covert surveillance of the coast and movements of enemy ships, adjust artillery fire, set minefields and carry out reconnaissance operations related to seabed surveys, etc.
Finally the availability of submarines of such level allows Israel to have a strategic advantage over any one of the Arab countries, as they are able to cut all the communications in the Mediterranean, the Red and Arabian Sea coasts to block the enemy and to destroy any Navy frigates of Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is exactly with these goals and in relation to the aggravated tensions with Iran (due to, among other, Iran’s nuclear program) that Israel has placed one of its submarines on a long-term basis in a position in the Indian ocean, ready to strike at Iran’s military infrastructure.
That is why, due to its special military capabilities, the Dolphin-class submarines have been identified as one of the main offensive forces of the Israeli Navy.
Under such circumstances, the commissioning of the modern Dolphin-class submarines, equipped with cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, has significantly increased the strategic potential of the Jewish state and significantly expanded the operational capabilities of the Israeli Navy, consolidating its supremacy over the states of the Near and Middle East. However, the presence of such Israeli submarines potential in the Mediterranean Sea carries a significant risk for Western European countries that find themselves in the range of potential actions of the Israeli armed forces.
For these reason, the actions of the German Chancellor and the German government to deliver five Dolphin-class submarines to Israel without prior consultation with the EU, NATO and without taking into account the views of the international community have significantly altered the balance of power in the Middle East and in Europe. This has caused the objective lack of understanding in the European political circles see and should certainly result in an international investigation on this issue, as well as on the issue of the Israeli nuclear program. They are however already covertly patrolling the Mediterranean Sea and are capable of causing “accidental” destructions not only in Southern European countries, but even in the UK. But a submarine fleet armed with nuclear weapons is not on the NATO’s list of threats and therefore not supervised by the organization. Considering that a number of countries in the Middle East have practically been in a state of military confrontation with Israel for decades, the actions of the German chancellor giving one of the countries of the Middle East conflict unilateral military and strategic advantage and the possibility of dominance not only in the region but also in Europe can hardly be called well-considered.
Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”