The Israel Navy welcomed a new submarine to its ranks at a ceremony for the INS Tanin in the port of Haifa on Tuesday.
The Dolphin-class submarine, which was purchased from Germany at a considerable discount, is considered to be the most advanced and technologically capable submarine within the Israeli fleet.
“My friends, this is a holiday for the Navy, and this is a holiday present to the people of Israel as a whole,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech at Haifa’s port. “But there is another important dimension to this event: This sends a clear message to our enemies that Israel is determined to deal with any threat, any challenge, anywhere.”
Netanyahu welcomed the new vessel, while invoking the memory of INS Dakar — an Israeli submarine that mysteriously sank in the Aegean Sea in 1968.
The legacy of the INS Dakar was honored at a separate occasion on Monday aboard the INS Tanin. The ceremony, attended by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ram Rothberg, took place in the Aegean Sea at the site where the sunken submarine was discovered in 1999.
The INS Tanin is the fourth of five nuclear-capable submarines due to be brought over from Germany, as agreed in a seven-year defense agreement between the two countries. A fifth submarine, the INS Rahav, is scheduled to arrive in Israel within the next year.
In 2013 then-defense minister Ehud Barak signed a separate deal with Germany that would bring in a sixth submarine in 2019.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu praised his German counterparts for their efforts and praised Germany for its “unique support of Israel’s security.”
The submarine’s discounted cost is rooted in a 1953 agreement between the two countries over Holocaust reparations.
The controversial agreement, which significantly boosted Israel’s economy during the early days of its independence, has brought billions of dollars of military and economic aid to Israel throughout its history and was further invoked to purchase the new line of naval vessels.
The new submarines have engines that don’t require surfacing to acquire new air supplies, effectively expanding Israel’s naval — and, reportedly, nuclear — reach and allowing for more far-ranging and long-lasting tasks.
In 2012, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that Israel’s submarine fleet had nuclear capabilities, of which Berlin was aware but opted to publicly remain mum in order to avoid having to defend the deals.
The submarines, according to Der Spiegel, are equipped with Israeli-designed Popeye missiles, which can carry a warhead of up to 200 kilograms. The nuclear warheads are produced at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, the report said.
Israel maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying that it is in possession of nuclear weapons.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.