October 10, 2021

Why is Israel Buying 3 More Dolphin Submarines?

An Anonymous has posed some interesting questions regarding Israel's Dolphin-class submarines


Here is a link to the Israel submarine scandal.  There have been criminal proceedings (indictment?) against ex PM Benjamin Netanyahu for issuing a 2017 requirement for 3 additional Dolphins (known as "Dakar-class, Dolphin 3s) in such a way as to benefit parties related to him. In fact, without this scandal, he would still be PM and the last 3 elections would not have happened. 

This would normally have little interest to you, except for the scandal being presented by some parties in Israel as there being no case for the additional submarines at all.  

Israel currently has 6 Dolphin subs, 3 of which have AIP.   

1.  In order to maintain a second strike deterrent capability against Iran and Russia(?), others(?) what is actually reasonable? 

Anon comments: "In my view, all you need is to sit off Haifa under an Israeli air superiority umbrella (and surface fleet).  If so, the additional submarines are at least premature." 

2.  Or is this the only mission?  

3.  I could see a benefit to Israel if it could operate additional submarines in the Indian ocean, which would perhaps justify 3 additional submarines, but how would that work? 

4.  Israeli subs at Israel's southern-"forward" Eilat naval base would have to pass Red Sea choke points, and patrol areas off Iran and/or Pakistan would be pretty distant.  Is it technically and/or politically possible for Israel to operate submarines in the Indian ocean? 

Anon comments "(I doubt it is in India or indeed any other nearby country's political interest to host an Israeli submarine base or depot ship.) " 

Map A. Israel's Naval Bases: From Haifa main base in the north to Eilat "forward" base in the south.

Map B. Israel, via Suez Canal and Red Sea to Indian Ocean. Israeli subs can also take the long route Mediterranean then south around Africa, to Indian Ocean.


Regarding the Questions:

1. The first 3 Dolphin 1s have been in the water since the mid-late 1990s and after 30 years will be coming up for replacement.

Israel wants to have AIP on all new Dolphins. The first 3 Dolphins, the 1s, don't have AIP. The 3 Dolphin 2s do have AIP. AIP will be continued with the 3 Dolphin 3s. AIP has advantages including weeks instead of days full submergence while the Dolphins sit on the seafloor outside Haifa with their nuclear missiles.

Currently the Dolphin's Popeye Turbo nuclear cruise missiles are not fast enough or long rang enough to hit Moscow. This is why Israel maintains fast, longer range, Jericho III ICBMs. 

It is also possible the 3 Dolphin 3s may have vertical launch silos permitting greater effectiveness and possible future longer range ballistic missile flexibility.

2. Reasons other than First and Second strike are that the Dolphins are the only subs Israel has so they have to fulfill all other SSK missions. In carrying out other missions the fact Dolphins may have immensely sensitive and expensive nuclear weapons on board could lead to some catastrophic use them or lose them scenarios.

3. and 4. Indian Ocean ops, especially after going around Africa, involve refueling problems. The USN, maybe Spain's Canary Islands, South Africa? and India? (confessions please :) may have secret understandings with Israel regarding refueling and perhaps some basic spare parts. 

Please connect with SubMatts' Israel's Dolphin Submarines, Naval Bases and SigInt Network of January 19, 2016. This was published Before the Israeli order for 3 x Dakar-class Dolphin 3s.


Gessler said...

A good read, and sort of a follow-up for my previous posts about the QUAD Working Groups:


This will have interesting implications on the 3GPP grouping as well.

4 out of the 7 organizational partners of the 3GPP (majority) are from the 3 QUAD nations of US, India & Japan.


The organizational partners are representatives of the Governments of the major countries involved in Telecom & telecom/internet-related equipment, and set the telecommunication protocols for each successive generation of standards (right now 5G, very soon 6G).

I believe the US & other major countries opposed to China are pretty serious about not letting the CCP set the standards in cutting-edge Tech & chart its own World Order, the damage they've already done and the amount of control they've already amassed is bad enough. But in a globalized world, even the Superpower cannot act alone in these matters - and that's where the QUAD comes in.

It's starting with 5G/Telecom....next order of business seems to be Semiconductors. After that, stuff like AI, Machine Learning and Quantum computing...the QUAD would more than likely seek to insert itself into these foundational techs which will shape the world economy for the next century, and try to steer it in a way that's convenient/beneficial for the major 'Democratic' nations.


Even last year, I would never have imagined QUAD would evolve into a platform like this, that seeks to control critical & emergent techs across the broad cross-section of Strategic as well as Civilian domains. I thought it would remain the usual Maritime Security grouping that does some posturing & the annual Naval exercise and nothing else. I think we're just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of this group & its influence over the INDOPAC (...and the world, if these developments are any indication).

I'm also kinda surprised at India's presence in this, considering its officially not an Ally of the US. Anyway, I'd rather we be in it, and have a say in how things go & be in a position to take advantage of the evolving situations, than being outside it.

The Chinese Communist dictatorship will last as long as they keep their promise to the Chinese people - surrender your freedoms, and in return gain economic prosperity. If the CCP is to fall, it would do so when it's forced to renege on that promise. When the Chinese people begin to lose what they have gained. If the Democratic form of Government, with all its imperfections (not to mention, the Strategic interests of these 4 countries among others in the region), is to survive - that has to happen.

Here's hoping that the QUAD can begin to engineer that fall. One thing's for damn sure - the Chinese threat is a very different kettle of fish compared to the Soviet Union.

Oleg7700 said...

https://news.walla.co.il/item/3464358 (google hebrew)Benet to Merkel: The submarines are a security need - want to complete the signed deal. A political source told Walla! The Prime Minister emphasized in his meeting with the German Chancellor that after the formation of the government, the defense establishment re-examined the purchase of the submarines from Germany approved by the Cabinet in 2017. According to the updated position, Israel needs them and is interested in fulfilling the contract to replace the old submarines in the coming years. Angela Merkel said that after taking office, he asked the defense establishment to re-examine the submarine deal with Germany, and according to the updated position, Israel is interested in fulfilling the contract to replace the old submarines in the coming years, said a political source in the meeting.
"The needs of the defense establishment have been re-analyzed by the new government," the diplomat said. "The defense establishment's position is that submarines should be equipped and we are working to complete the engagement. This message was conveyed to Merkel in a meeting with the prime minister. We will advance what is needed for national security. For us - the security of the State of Israel - above all." sincerely, Oleg7700.

Anonymous said...

Re Oleg7700 [Oct 11, 2021, 5:55:00 AM]

Interestingly, Walla! (Wikipedia link below) appears to be part of the Nataniyahu corruption story, though Pete's analysis indicates the requirement for the submarine purchase is valid. On the other hand, some corruption may still be involved. It seems submarine deals are not for people with weak stomachs.


Also, Pete's analysis makes me think that special forces insertion may be becoming too risky for increasingly expensive and sophisticated attack submarines, especially if they carry nuclear weapons, but even if not. How many special ops missions warrant risking a large fraction of a country's naval resources, especially if it takes maybe a $1B and 5-10 years to replace it?

Even for France and UK, a damaged and captured SSN would be a high price, even to for a Bin Laden class terrorist. Team exfiltration would be especially tricky, as the alarm would already be raised. There has to be a better way to do this. Maybe air portable minisubs? Any other ideas?

As for Israel using SSK's for special ops against Iran, Pakistan etc, it would take an extremely long time to mount an operation unless the submarine was already somewhere in the area and the special forces team could be flown out to it. Operations such as the rescue of the Entebbe hostages had to be mounted pretty quickly, and other opportunities are also likely to be fleeting. This is also a problem for other countries configuring submarines for special ops against land targets.

Oleg7700 said...

Socotra Island" were the right place for the submarines forward operating base. Together with Saudi Arabia... IMHO. "Nataniyahu corruption story",- fake news his political opponents and mass media. Now I know better.

Pete said...

Hi Oleg7700 [Oct 11, 2021, 7:00:00 PM]

Yes, what could go wrong with Israel building a forward naval/submarine base on Yemen's
Socotra Island? see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socotra

I'm sure there would be no international relations or legal problems if the Saudi's annex Socotra Island and share it with Israeli nuclear missile carrying Dolphin submarines :)

Pete said...

Additional reasons (which I've included in the text) Israel has ordered 3 x Dolphin 3s are:

Israel wants to have AIP on all new Dolphins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphin-class_submarine#Submarines_in_class . The first 3 Dolphins, the 1s, don't have AIP. The 3 Dolphin 2s do have AIP. AIP will be continued with the 3 Dolphin 3s. AIP has advantages including weeks instead of days full submergence while the Dolphins sit on the seafloor outside Haifa with their nuclear cruise missiles.

Currently the Dolphins' Popeye Turbo nuclear tipped cruise missiles are not fast enough or long rang enough to hit Moscow. This is why Israel maintains fast, longer range, Jericho III ICBMs. see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jericho_(missile)#Jericho_III

It is also possible the 3 Dolphin 3s may have vertical launch silos permitting greater effectiveness and possible future longer range ballistic missile flexibility.

Anonymous said...

Re Pete Oct 11, 2021, 7:00:00 PM]

I think your suggestion as to Socotra island is probably ironic (Is that a smiley face?)

Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) probably has a tricky enough situation with Wahabis and Islamists (Most 9/11 terrorists were Saudi) as it is, even without hosting an Israeli naval base.

Pete said...

Hi Anonymous [at Oct 12, 2021, 10:22:00 AM]

Yemen's Socotra Island as a forward Israeli Dolphin base was not my suggestion but Oleg7700's rather ambitious implication of Oct 11, 2021, 7:00:00 PM (above)

Perhaps Oleg7700, from Israel, was only stating Socotra Island was used to diesel refuel Israeli Dolphin's - for big money, of course.

Anonymous said...

Re [at Oct 12, 2021, 10:22:00 AM]

I think appearance of Israeli submarines at Socotra would create really major problems for the Saudi Monarchy, whose sphere of influence it is in. I doubt the Israeli's have enough money to motivate MBS to risk his crown. Anyway, Saudi Arabia, which has quite a bit of money, uses money to buy security, rather than the reverse. Oleg: Were you serious?

While I seriously doubt Socotra would be a base, I could imagine a one shot mission using it, or even a Saudi or UAE facility, if the particular mission is in their interest. Still, Israel would not be able to count on the facility being available in a military emergency.

Question to anyone with data: Would Dolphin 3 have LIB?

Anonymous said...

Israel may have 6 submarines but that does not mean all of them can be on patrol. I do not think ordering 3 more is unreasonable. Now there may be corruption involved (if that is proven to be the case) in this procurement, but it is a different matter, unrelated to the defense needs.

Pete said...

Hi Anonymous [Your Oct 12, 2021, 1:15:00 PM]

Re: "Question to anyone with data: Would Dolphin 3 have LIB?"

I have no data but circumstantial trends may mean the future Dolphin 3s could be fitted with LIBs.

Those trends being:

The TKMS assisted design of South Korea's KSS IIIs have LIBs (also the KSS III's VLS might appeal to Israel)

The even more heavily TKMS assisted design of Italy's future 212 NFS are to have LIBs



Pete said...

Hi KQN [Oct 12, 2021, 2:56:00 PM]

Yes all 6 Dolphins would be unlikely to be on patrol simultaneously.

The military-naval Rule of Thirds means 2 would be under long term maintainence + nuclear missile fitouts (for Israel).

In a well flagged build up to crisis (probably an irate Iran) only 4 operational might be possible.

Big money invites corruption at the top - and the sub business involves very BIG money.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete
1- They need it due to the deterioration in their environment(Iran) and the increase of the assets(offshore gas, 60%+of its water thru desalting,gas export to eu via Cyprus/Greece) to be protected.With 6 subs you are able to have 2 at sea anytime, one for deterrence and one for patrolling the Levant Bassin

-2 They can afford it.They are a prosperous country (9M pop, 400B GNP,5%growth average, positive balance and balanced budget)Can spend more than Sweden or Spain on defense ..2/3 years conscription reduces also the people/pension tab

-3 It was the right time. For efficiency,they tend to keep the same supplier and model for a long time for their key military assets.While they could have waited a little for the early models replacement, they though that a window would close (Merkel and the CDU being potentially replaced by the Greens (against arm export..except for those that do not need it!)the growth of the German moslem poopulation..).A bargain:3 for 2! although when you look at the tab its seems quite a lot of political PR on both sides..It take 10 years to get an off the shelf sub and it last the next 25 years..

Corruption, potentially yes , but only a well documented court hearing could tell owing to the heated Israeli political arena. The others cases are quite small (champagne and cigars gifts..favors again political positive coverage..This never occurs in he US, UK or France..! (I guess in these countries the Media boss "understand"without being asked)

Oleg7700 said...

The guarantee lasts for 30 years after receipt of the Dolphin-1, alas... It will be very soon. LIB, or not LIB, but only USA... In view of the situation in the region, NAVY needed a minimum of 9:- the principle of using- 3+3+3. There is money, but outdated procedures, inadequate human resources and the place of basing. Life can force... (smiley)

Pete said...

Hi Anonymous @Oct 12, 2021, 7:21:00 PM

I agree with your points 1 to 3 on extra reasons Israel ordered Dolphins.

And yes - charges of high level corruption may indicate Israelis no longer Respected Netanyahu's "AUTHORITAH!" https://youtu.be/4rHuinnfVJo



Pete said...

Hi Oleg7700 @Oct 12, 2021, 11:09:00 PM

All very useful info.

Though you speak in riddles a bit.

Does "only USA" mean Israel will be incorporating that very US invention, VLS, into the future Dolphin 3s?


Oleg7700 said...

Вattery it is very expensive. Supplies are paid for by US financial assistance. "made in the USA", exclusively...

Pete said...

Hi Oleg7700 said...
@Oct 13, 2021, 7:18:00 PM

Very interesting.

So I assume the US supplies Israel (or pays for) submarine Lead-acid batteries. Even US nuke subs need backup batteries.

What about liquid oxygen (LOx) and Hydrogen compourd for the Dolphin's AIP?



Oleg7700 said...

The US supplies... (For each Dolphin-1, 600 batteries were replaced, each 400 kg. total weight - 240 tons.) Oxygen and Hydrogen compourd for the Dolphin's AIP of locally. Including- "metal hydride" and Fuel Cells restoration up to 100% performance. Regards Oleg7700.

Pete said...

Thanks Oleg7700 [your Oct 13, 2021, 10:44:00 PM]

If only the US donated, rather than sold, expensive items to Australia as well.

Australia doesn't enjoy the equivalent of the US-Israel Military Aid and Procurement Agreement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel%E2%80%93United_States_military_relations#Military_aid_and_procurement