Israel’s submariners were called into action for the outbreak of a simulated war during a surprise drill this week, with the army saying the exercise was intended to transform the oft-ignored undersea force into a more formidable weapon.
The drill, which began Saturday night and ended Thursday, included the Israel Navy’s submarine flotilla, as well as the elite Shayetet 13 unit — comparable to the US Navy SEALs — the IDF’s gunship flotilla, a squadron of patrol boats and Israeli Air Force aircraft, the army said.
The military hailed the six-day exercise as the “pinnacle in the process of developing” the submarine flotilla into a more significant fighting force “in the navy and in the IDF, in general.”
“During the exercise an emphasis was put on the central aspects of the [submarine] flotillas in an emergency, including collecting intelligence, working together with other units in the navy and air force, as well as anti-submarine warfare,” the IDF said in a statement about the drill.
In the drill, some units acted as enemy combatants, while others worked alongside the submarine flotilla, the army said.
“The exercise tested the abilities of the various submarines to act deep within enemy territory and as part of a joint force with other naval vessels in order to achieve objectives together,” the military said.
Submarines, unmatched in their ability to hide from enemy navies, have long been a major facet of Israel’s defense policy.
They can function entirely on their own for weeks at a time before they need to return to base for additional fuel.
According to foreign reports, Israeli submarines armed with cruise missiles topped with nuclear warheads, afford the tiny Jewish state “second strike” capabilities — although the government maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear capabilities.