The Israeli Navy’s newest high-tech submarine has left the German manufacturing center where it was made and begun the 3,000-mile journey to its home on a Haifa naval base.
The 220-foot, 2,000-ton Dolphin-class submarine, Israel’s fifth, is named the INS Rahav. It is Israel’s second new-generation AIP (air independent propulsion) submarine. A senior naval source said on Thursday that the INS Rahav is headed home with crew of 50 on board, as well as “minimal weapons needed to protect itself”.
It will make a brief stop on its journey for a memorial ceremony at the site where one of Israel’s first submarines, the INS Dakar (“Swordfish”), disappeared in 1968.
The $2 billion submarine was commissioned over a decade ago and unveiled in Germany in May 2013, but needed another year and a half of work before it could become fully operational. It is set to arrive in Israel next week, where it will be fitted with Israeli systems.
Submarines with AIP platforms differ from older conventional subs in that they can stay underwater for significantly longer periods of time, potentially weeks, using fuel cells to supplement their diesel-electric engines. With a second AIP sub, said the naval source, Israel has “doubled its covert capabilities.”
The INS Rahav is also equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and tracking systems, countermeasures to enable it to avoid detection, satellite communications capabilities, and other electronic warfare systems.
“The fifth submarine greatly enhances the Israel Navy’s submarine flotilla and provides us with another state-of-the-art tool to aid and defend Israel against numerous threats,” the naval officer said.
A specialized dock has been constructed by the navy in Haifa to house the new submarines. The dock will allow for the two advanced subs to be kept separately and covertly, enabling convenient and flexible movement when needed.
Among the benefits of the new advanced submarines is the ability to conduct lengthy intelligence gathering missions. The former commander of the navy’s submarine school told the Jerusalem Post in 2014, “A submarine can stay in enemy territory for weeks, and no one knows it’s there. It can lurk off coastal regions without any problem at all. The level of intelligence this brings is not heard about by the public.”
Indeed, Israel’s submarine program is kept highly secret. A rumor holds that some or all of the navy’s submarines have been modified to hold nuclear cruise missiles. Israel has never confirmed or denied the rumor.