German-Made Submarine Received in Haifa As Part of Israel’s Second-Strike Deployment

Mideast Israel Submarine
An Israeli navy sailors stand atop a new submarine "Rahav" upon its arrival in to the military port in Haifa, Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 12 / AP

JERUSALEM—A new German-made submarine, reportedly capable of firing nuclear missiles, was ceremoniously received in Haifa Tuesday as part of Israel’s second-strike deployment in the face of Iran’s nuclear threat.

The submarine, named Rahav, is the sixth such vessel to be received by the Israeli navy. It arrived amidst an international furor over a recent test by Iran of a long-range missile capable of hitting Israel which critics said was carried out in violation of a United Nations resolution. As part of its nuclear agreement with foreign powers, Iran is banned from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads for up to eight years.

The Rahav (the Hebrew name for the Greek god of the sea, Neptune) is due to become operational within a few months. It cost more than $400 million to build, one-third of which was underwritten by the German government. Israel undertook acquiring cutting-edge submarines more than two decades ago when it became apparent that Iran was intent on developing nuclear capability. The vessel arrived from the German port of Kiel with a crew of 50 aboard.

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With five missile-capable submarines—and a sixth on order—Israel could maintain a permanent underwater presence within range of Iran, whether from the Indian Ocean or elsewhere. This would be equivalent in its strategic weight to the naval and aerial platforms maintained by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In theory, the subs are the most threatening weapons facing Iran, whose leaders have periodically called openly for destruction of the Jewish state. No matter what damage is inflicted upon Israel in any future confrontation, the submarines would remain capable of delivering a punishing response.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke at the ceremony in Haifa’s naval base, said the submarine was "the most advanced, complex and most expensive" item in Israel’s military arsenal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the submarine fleet was a key element in Israel’s defensive array. "It acts as a deterrent to our enemies who want to destroy us," he said. "They will not succeed."

Israel has never acknowledged having nuclear weapons but foreign media have reported that it possesses as many as 200 warheads.

The vessel’s most notable feature, a naval source said, is the ability to remain underwater for weeks at a time. It contains an air-independent propulsion system, which operates through a fuel cell rather than oxygen-dependent sources, he said. According to Defense News, a sister ship, the Tanin, which was delivered to Israel last year, is equipped with 10 tubes capable of firing torpedoes and missiles.

Israel has in the past used submarines for surveillance and for landing naval commandos on hostile shores.