IDF sees steep rise in submarine operations

Last year saw spike in deployments for Israel’s nuclear-capable fleet, which is set to grow by two more vessels this year

An Israeli Navy Dolphin-class submarine. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
An Israeli Navy Dolphin-class submarine. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The IDF’s submarine flotilla has seen a sharp increase in the number and duration of its at-sea operations, with a special focus on Israel’s northern neighbor Lebanon.

According to a senior Israel Navy officer, 58 percent of the navy’s submarine flotilla’s time at sea in 2013 were in operational deployments, while the remaining 42% were for training purposes. That marks a dramatic increase from the three previous years, when submarines spent just 36% of their time at sea in operational deployments.

The navy’s submarines also conducted 54 special operations in 2013, a similarly sharp increase from previous years. The operations included deployments to the Lebanese coast and deployments lasting several weeks that took the submarines thousands of kilometers from Israel.

The navy’s figures mark a rare revelation on the part of the IDF that suggests the military has significantly upped its operational presence to counter threats from Hezbollah and the more distant Iran.

It is also likely a message to the German government, which is visiting Israel this week in a delegation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel for high-level talks with Israeli counterparts.

Israel buys its top-of-the-line, nuclear warhead-capable (according to foreign reports) Dolphin submarines from Germany, and the navy expects two new Dolphin-class subs to be delivered in the second half of 2014, the INS Tanin and INS Rahav.

An Israeli Dolphin class submarine at port. (photo credit: CC BY shlomiliss, Wikimedia)
An Israeli Dolphin-class submarine at port. (photo credit: CC BY shlomiliss, Wikimedia)

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 distant and long-lasting operations.

“Last year we carried out thousands of hours of operations in the submarines,” the commander of the navy’s submarine flotilla, Col. “G,” said in a briefing Tuesday.

“G” called the new submarines “very technologically sophisticated vessels that require highly trained and professional crews to operate them… We operate in different theaters, including the northern theater, to ensure the security of the State of Israel,” he said.

According to Brig. Gen. Eli Sharvit, commander of the navy’s Haifa base, the navy’s northern deployments are intended to protect Israel from a “highly operational” Syrian navy, which is armed with “strategic weaponry” and has maintained a powerful presence in the region despite the civil war raging in the country.

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