Israel’s leaders were on hand at the Israeli Navy’s Haifa base on Tuesday to welcome the country’s fifth Dolphin-class submarine.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot attended the arrival of the German-built INS Rahav.
It left the German port of Kiel last month and sailed in with a crew of 50 on board.
Due to be operational in a matter of months, the vessel cost NIS 1.6 billion (around $406 million), one-third of which was underwritten by the German government.
Netanyahu said the submarine, which, according to foreign reports is capable of delivering a nuclear payload, would be a key part of the country’s defensive array.
“Above all else, our submarine fleet acts as a deterrent to our enemies who want to destroy us. They won’t achieve their aims,” he said. “They need to know that Israel can attack, with great might, anyone who tries to harm it.”
The submarine is “a formidable war machine,” Rivlin said, “the most advanced, complex and most expensive” item in the Israeli military’s arsenal.
“In the decades to come, the INS Rahav will take an active part in defending the country and its maritime territory, by acting deeper, further and longer underwater,” he said. “Seeing without being seen, keeping a watchful eye, and projecting our operational abilities on the naval front.”
Ordered a decade ago, the Rahav will be Israel’s fifth Dolphin-class submarine, joining the Tanin, Tekuma, Leviathan and Dolphin at the Haifa naval base.
Israeli submarines are reportedly capable of carrying nuclear-tipped missiles, affording the tiny Jewish state a “second-strike” capability in case it is attacked by nuclear weapons.
Israel has not acknowledged that it possesses nuclear weapons, although foreign media and analysts say it possesses as many as 200 warheads.
Rahav is the Hebrew name for the Greek god of the sea, Neptune, and has been used for other naval ships in the past, but it can also mean “haughtiness” or “arrogance” in modern Hebrew.
The submarine, built by the German Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft shipbuilding company, was unveiled in April 2013, but required an additional year and a half of work to make it fully operational. The diesel-powered sub is over 220 feet (67 meters) long and weighs more than 2,000 tons.
The vessel’s air-independent propulsion system, which operates through a fuel cell instead of using louder, oxygen-dependent sources, allows it to remain underwater without surfacing for weeks at a time, a naval source said.
Last year, the INS Tanin — “Crocodile,” in Hebrew — arrived in Israel. The reportedly nuke-capable submarine, similar in most ways to the new Rahav, came equipped with 10 torpedo tubes capable of holding a variety of missiles, according to Defense News.
Submarines, unmatched in their ability to hide from enemy navies, have long been a key element in Israel’s defense policy.
Israel also purchased a sixth submarine from Germany in 2013, which is expected to be completed in a few years. It is not yet clear if it will join the current fleet, or replace one of the older vessels.