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TEL AVIV, Israel – A deal negotiated in secret will see the Israel Navy take delivery of 3 nuclear-enabled submarines over the next decade.
Germany is to provide the Dolphin-class submarines as a result of secret negotiations which have spanned the last few months.
Israel will pay a substantially discounted price of $1.3 billion for the three submarines.
The deal is expected to be finalised in early November.
According to The Jerusalem Post, quoting foreign reports, the Israel Navy’s Dolphins ‘provide Israel with nuclear second-strike capabilities, as they can travel far from Israel’s territorial waters and are reportedly able to carry long-range cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.’
Israel, which orchestrated the drive against Iran becoming a nuclear power, and has bombed emerging nuclear facilities in Iraq and Syria, has itself been developing nuclear weapons since the 1950s. The Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev desert had its origins in 1954, just six years after the birth of Israel. The late Shimon Peres as Director General of the Israeli Defense Ministry was responsible for the development of the facility. A pact with France was secretly negotiated and hundreds of French scientists were brought in to develop the facility, in absolute secrecy.
To offset the concerns of satellite surveilance, the Jewish state publicly touted the facility as a business park or textile factory. When U.S. President John Kennedy aroused suspicions in 1963, Israel maintained its denials. Kennedy applied so much pressure, David Ben-Gurion resigned as prime minister of Israel just months before Kennedy was assassinated. Some researchers implicate the Israeli inteligence agency Mossad among those considered responsible for the assassination.
Peres himself was asked point blank by Kennedy if Israel was building a nuclear facility. Summoned to the Oval Room in the White House on a 1963 visit to Washington, the young Peres was asked in his words, ’30 rapid-fire questions,’ before Kennedy asked: “Are you building a nuclear option?” Peres said he changed the subject.
To this day Israel has neither confirmed or denied publicly it has a nuclear facility. The only official statement on Dimona was made on December 21 1960 when Ben-Gurion, in response to an aricle in Time magazine which spawned a flurry of media coverage, announced to the Knesset his government was building “a 24 megawatt reactor which will serve the needs of industry, agriculture, health, and science,” and that it “is designed exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
The Israel Navy until last year had a fleet of four Dolphin-class submarines operating out of its naval base at Haifa. A fifth submarine ariived in late December last year after which it was expected to be fitted with Iraeli-built systems which took several months. It is believed it is operational now.
“Submarines bring a level of intelligence to Israel that cannot be achieved by other units,” Lt.-Cmdr. Y., a past commander of the navy’s submarine school, told The Jerusalem Post in 2014.
“Drones that fly in the air can be shot down,” he said, “but 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. All of our operations build on past operations.”
In addition to the new submarines, the Israeli Navy has been working closely with Germany to upgrade its entire combat surface naval fleet. New German-built, Israeli-equipped Sa’ar-6 corvettes will be added to the fleet over the next few years, and new radars and electronic warfare systems are being added to existing Sa’ar-5 and Sa’ar 4.5 ships. By 2024, the upgraded corvettes and missile boats will be joined by four larger Sa’ar-6 combat ships, the result of a 430 million euro deal signed between Israel and Germany last year.
“All the top-side arrangements above the water line are basically a German and Israeli design, tailored for the needs of the Israel Navy and integrated with our own radar, electronic warfare and other systems,” Israel Navy Captain Ariel Shir, head of the Electronic Combat Systems Department in the service’s Materiel Command said when the deal was announced last year.
“Now that the contract is signed on the Sa’ar-6 ships, we’re starting to contract for the subsystems,” Shir said at the time.