Quietly, beneath the surface, Israel is becoming a naval power like the United States and Russia, with an armada of advanced submarines. Germany has agreed to provide Israel with a sixth Dolphin-class submarine, of which Israel already possesses three. Two more are expected to arrive this year and next year; the deal for the sixth was recently struck.
Germany has also agreed to subsidize the sixth submarine, as it did with the prior ones. It gave the first two to Israel as a gift. It paid for half of the third, and one-third of the fourth, fifth and sixth. In an age where the Germans themselves are trimming down the military because of economic difficulties, this is very significant.
It seems that Germany will sell Israel even more submarines. Israel is interested in reaching a fleet of 10, which will ensure its strength for decades. The cost of each submarine starts at around half a billion dollars, and can reach $850 million. Israel has defined specific requirements for its submarines, equipping them with secret advanced systems. The sixth submarine will be the most advanced, with the ability to remain in deep water the longest.
The Israeli navy is thus going through an important conceptual shift: from coast-guarding (which is certainly important), to becoming one of Israel and the IDF’s strategic arms, no less than the Israeli air force. Our submarines can get anywhere in the world, certainly in the region, and our enemies, for now, have no real response.
No state in the region can acquire such weaponry at such prices. A few years ago, it was reported that Egypt was interested in acquiring a Dolphin submarine from Germany. The Egyptian submarines are old, and Egypt was made anxious by the fact that Israel has full deep-water capabilities while it did not. But negotiations failed to progress, and the military regime today does not have the money for such submarines.
As for the Iranians, they too are monitoring with concern reports from Germany on the provision of three more submarines to Israel, understanding that they have no such capability. In order to demonstrate an alternative, their old Kilo-class submarine has recently been traveling in the Red Sea in defiance of Israel’s long-term presence. This is also the reason that their ship crossed the Suez Canal, passing through the Mediterranean Sea: to demonstrate that the Iranians are also a regional power.
Sun Tzu revealed in “The Art of War” how deterrence is built: if your enemy believes he will be severely harmed should he attack you, he will stop himself. And this is the significance of the submarines: Iran will theoretically be able to attack Israel with missiles, but it knows, according to foreign sources, that the price is likely to be an existential one. Even if Israel’s offensive and defensive capabilities are destroyed in such an attack, the blow to Iran will come from the sea — and it will certainly come. If Iran understands that it will pay a horrible price, it won’t attack. And indeed, it has been written in many newspapers around the world that the Israeli submarine is constantly traveling along Iran’s coasts — and that is the deterrent. When the number of submarines reaches six or more, it will mean Israeli control over a huge area.
The submarines constitute extremely powerful weaponry, but they are actually the safest guarantee of Middle East stability, a guarantee that the chances for war decrease. With this kind of power, Israel is the guard of the deep waters and of stability in our region, and that is the best investment in regional peace.