Military Wiki
Dolphin-class submarine
I.n.s. dolfin-03.JPG
INS Dolphin (2010)
Class overview
Builders: Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW)
Operators:  Israeli Navy
Completed: Dolphin
Leviathan (trans. "Whale")
Tekumah (trans. "Revival")
Tannin (trans. "Crocodile")
Rahav (trans. "Demon")
Active: 3 (another 2 fitting-out and undergoing sea trials, plus 1 on order)[1][2]
General characteristics
Type: Diesel-electric submarine
Displacement: 1,640 tons surfaced, 1,900 tons submerged
2,300 tons for AIP-capable model[3]
Length: 57 m (187 ft)
68 m (223 ft) for AIP-capable model[3]
Beam: 6.8 m (22 ft)
Draught: 6.2 m (20 ft)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, 3 diesels, 1 shaft, 4,243 shp (3,164 kW)
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Test depth: At least 350 m (1,150 ft)
Complement: 35 + 10 additional
Sensors and
processing systems:
STN Atlas ISUS 90-55 combat system
Armament: 6 × 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes
4 × 650 mm (26 in) diameter torpedo tubes
Notes: Unless noted, characteristics listed are those of the original 1990s non-AIP-capable model

The Dolphin-class is actually two related sub-classes of diesel-electric submarine developed and constructed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW), Germany for the Israeli Navy.[4][5] The first three members of the class were based on the export-only German 209-class submarines, but greatly modified and enlarged, and are thus not designated as members of the 209 family. The Dolphin 1 sub-class is slightly larger than the German Navy Type 212 in length and displacement. The three newer air-independent propulsion equipped boats are similar to the Type 212 vessels currently used by the German navy in underwater endurance, although the AIP Dolphins are 12 metres longer and are nearly 500 tonnes heavier in submerged displacement, and have a larger crew than either the Type 212 or the Type 214. The Dolphin class boats are the most expensive single vehicles in the Israel Defense Forces and are considered among the most sophisticated and capable conventionally powered submarines in the world.[citation needed] The Dolphin-class replaced the aging Gal-class submarines, which had served in the Israeli navy since the late 1970s. Each Dolphin-class submarine is capable of carrying a combined total of up to 16 torpedoes and SLCMs.[6] The cruise missiles are believed to have a range of 1,500 km (930 mi)[7] and may be equipped with conventional warheads or a 200-kilogram (440 lb) nuclear warhead containing up to 6 kilograms (13 lb) of plutonium.[8][9] The latter, if true, would provide Israel with an offshore second strike capability.[10][11][12][13]


Dolphin class

  • Dolphin – delivered May 1998 – commissioned 1999
  • Leviathan (trans. "Leviathan" or "whale") – delivered 1999 – commissioned 2000
  • Tekumah (trans. "Revival") – delivered 2000 – commissioned 2000

AIP Dolphin 2 class[4]

  • Tannin (trans. "Tannin" or "Crocodile") – delivered 3 May 2012[14] - expected to enter service in 2014[15]
  • Rahav (trans. "Rahab" or "Demon") – delivered 29 April 2013[16] - expected to enter service in 2014[15]
  • Name not assigned yet. Ordered 21 March 2012.[14][17][18] Expected to enter service in 2017.[19]

First budgeted in July 1989 and ordered in January 1990, by November the order was canceled due to budget reallocation aimed at countering Iraqi threats leading up to the 1991 Gulf War. The first two (Dolphin and Leviathan) were fully donated by Germany to restart the program and the third (Tekumah) received a 50% subsidy. During the first Gulf War, it was revealed that German firms had assisted Iraq with modernizing its missile and chemical weapon programs thanks in part to lax enforcement by German customs,[20] which led to protests in both Germany and Israel. To compensate Israel for war related damage and economic losses[20][21] and keep German shipyards occupied in the post Cold War defense spending downturn[22][23] then Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl approved an assistance package including the construction of two Dolphin submarines.[24][25]

The names Dolphin and Leviathan hail from the retired Israeli WW-II era submarines of the British T class; the third boat Tekuma (translation: Revival) refers in memory of Dakar, the third Israeli boat of the T class which was lost with all Israeli crew in the Mediterranean Sea during delivery. The forthcoming boats Tannin and Rahav are names taken from retired Gal-class submarines, which were themselves named after even older Israeli S class boats.[26]

Additional procurement

In 2006 Israel signed a contract with ThyssenKrupp to purchase two additional submarines from its HDW subsidiary.[24] The two new boats are an upgraded version of the older Dolphins, featuring an air-independent propulsion system, similar to the one used on German Type 212 submarines.[24] On July 6, 2006, the Government of Germany decided to finance an advance to start the construction, about 170 million euros, planned for delivery in 2012.[27] The two submarines cost, overall, around 1.3 billion euro, of up to one-third was subsidized by Germany.[21] In 2010, both Israel and Germany denied having talks regarding the potential purchase of a sixth submarine.[28] Yet in 2011, Israel ordered a sixth Dolphin-class submarine, for which it was reported to pay the unsubsidized cost of $1 billion.[29] However, in July 2011, during a meeting between German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense minister Ehud Barak, an agreement was reached to subsidize 135 million euros of the 500-700 million USD cost of the sixth submarine.[30][31]

Der Spiegel reports that Germany has threatened to pull out of the deal over new Israeli settlement expansion.[32] However, Amos Gilad of the Israeli Ministry of Defense has denied the rumors and stated that the contract is continuing.[2] German sources are reported as saying that the submarine deal was continued only on condition that Israel unfreeze funds to the Palestinian Authority.[33]

Armament and systems

Standing on a Dolphin-class submarine

Each submarine is armed with 6 × 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes, and 4 × 650 mm (26 in) torpedo tubes.[6] The very large 650mm tubes are only commonly seen on some Russian submarines; they can be used for mines, larger cruise missiles, or swimmer delivery vehicles, and with liners the tubes could be used for standard torpedoes and submarine-launched missiles. According to the German Defense Ministry the 650mm tubes are to have a liner installed for firing 533mm UGM-84 Harpoon missiles although the Dolphin class already has six tubes of the 533mm size.[34] The boats will be armed with Atlas Elektronik DM2A3 torpedoes using wire-guided active homing to deliver a 260 kg (570 lb) warhead at a maximum speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) to a target over 13 km (8.1 mi) away, in passive homing mode a speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph) and a range up to 28 km (17 mi) is possible. A wet and dry compartment is installed for deploying underwater special operations teams.[6]

Jane's Defence Weekly reports that the Dolphin class submarines are believed to be nuclear armed, offering Israel both a first strike and a second strike capability.[12][13] In adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime rules[34] the US Clinton administration refused an Israeli request in 2000 to purchase Tomahawk long range SLCMs. The US Navy has deployed nuclear armed and conventional Tomahawk missiles for its submarine fleet which are launched from standard heavy 533mm torpedo tubes.[35] The Federation of American Scientists and report that the four larger torpedo tubes are capable of launching Israeli built nuclear-armed Popeye Turbo cruise missiles (a variant of the Popeye standoff missile), and the US Navy recorded an Israeli submarine-launched cruise missile test in the Indian Ocean ranging 1,500 km (930 mi).[6][8][36]

The Dolphin-class uses the ISUS 90-1 TCS weapon control system supplied by STN Atlas Elektronik, for automatic sensor management, fire control, navigation, and operations. The installed radar warning receiver is a 4CH(V)2 Timnex electronic support measures system, scanning from 2 GHz to 18 GHz frequency bands and able to pinpoint radar sites with accuracy between 1.4 to 5 degrees of angle (depending on frequency).[37] It is developed by Elbit in Haifa. Active surface search radar is an Elta unit operating on I band. The sonar suite includes the Atlas Elektronik CSU 90 hull-mounted passive and active search and attack sonar. The PRS-3 passive ranging sonar is also supplied by Atlas Elektronik, the flank array is a FAS-3 passive search sonar. The submarine has two Kollmorgen periscopes.[6]

The Dolphins are equipped with three V-16 396 SE 84 diesel engines[38] built by MTU Friedrichshafen (now Tognum), developing 3.12 MW (4,180 hp) sustained power. The submarine is equipped with three Siemens 750 kW alternators, and a Siemens 2.85 MW sustained-power motor driving a single shaft. The propulsion system provides a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) submerged and a snorkeling speed of 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph). The hull is rated for dives up to 350 m (1,150 ft). The maximum unrefuelled range is 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) traveling on the surface at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) and over 400 nautical miles (740 km; 460 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged; they are designed to remain unsupplied for up to 30 days on station.[6]

Operations and deployment

According to news reports the submarines are normally based in the Mediterranean.[39] One Dolphin was sent to the Red Sea for exercises, briefly docking in the naval base in Eilat in June 2009, which Israeli media interpreted as a warning to Iran.[40] In 2009 the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, quoting an Israeli defense official, reported that the small Eilat naval station is unsuited strategically to base the Dolphin-class boats, specifically noting the tight entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba at the Straits of Tiran as one held by potential adversaries including Saudi Arabia on the east and the demilitarized Egyptian Sinai to the west. Eilat is a 10 km (6.2 mi) strip of coast between Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab states that currently have peace treaties with Israel. According to The London Sunday Times, the Israeli Navy decided in May 2010 to keep at least one submarine equipped with nuclear missiles there permanently as a deterrent in response to rumored ballistic missiles moved from Syria to Lebanon.[13]

If the boats are based at the larger Haifa naval base, access to the Persian Gulf area either requires openly sailing on the surface through the Egyptian controlled Suez Canal as permitted in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty or a long voyage sailing around Africa. According to the Convention of Constantinople signed by the ruling great powers of the time including the UK, France, and the Ottoman Empire in March 2, 1888; "The Suez Maritime Canal shall always be free and open, in time of war as in time of peace, to every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag."[41] Denied crossing at the Suez Canal and blockade of the Straits of Tiran occurred in both in 1956 and 1967 leading to Israel twice seizing the Sinai to break the blockade.[42] The Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty allows for the free passage of Israeli vessels through the Suez Canal, and recognizes the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as international waterways. Even if a Red Sea or Indian Ocean base is unavailable other nations have used submarine tenders, ships that resupply, rearm, and refuel submarines at sea, when nearby friendly bases are unavailable.

In response to rumors that Israeli submarines might be allowed to secretly base in Bahrain, an island kingdom in the Persian Gulf near Iran, the commander in chief of Bahrain's defense forces, Sheikh bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa stated to the Iranian ambassador Hossein Amir Abdollahian "We view the Zionist regime as our enemy and the enemy of all Muslim world. Bahrain in no way allows Tel Aviv [Israeli military forces] to be present in its territorial waters."[43]

According to two contradictory Sudanese media reports, in November or December 2011 two Israeli air raids against Gaza-bound weapon smugglers in Sudan were accompanied by Israeli submarine activity off the Sudanese coast.[44][45] The Sudanese government claims no strikes took place.

In February 2012, Ynet, the online version of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot (Latest News), reported that for security reasons applicants for the submarine service with dual citizenship or citizenship in addition to Israeli, which is common in Israel with a relatively high percentage of olim or immigrant families, must officially renounce all other citizenships to be accepted into the training program.[46]

Israel National News and the Jerusalem Post both had articles on Sunday the 14 July 2013 which quote that day's London Sunday Times saying that the July fifth Israeli missile strike against the Syrian port of Latakia previously reported by CNN as an Israel Air Force strike was made in coordination with the United States and long range missiles were launched from a Dolphin class submarine. The attack targeted newly unloaded Russian-made Yakhont long range high performance anti-ship missiles and associated radars.[47][48][49][50]

See also


  1. Eshel, Tamir (6 May 2011). "Israel to Receive a Third Enhanced Dolphin Submarine". Defense Update. Retrieved 25 July 2011. [dead link]
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Sixth Submarine: "The Contract Continues"". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Title unknown". [dead link]
  4. 4.0 4.1
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 "SSK Dolphin Class, Israel". Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  7. Friedman, Norman (2006). The Naval Institute guide to world naval weapon systems. Naval Institute Press. p. 505. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Popeye Turbo". Weapons of Mass Destruction. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  9. Mahnaimi, Uzi; Campbell, Matthew (June 18, 2000). "Israel Makes Nuclear Waves With Submarine Missile Test". London. 
  10. Cirincione, Joseph; Wolfsthal, Jon B.; Rajkumar, Miriam (2005). Deadly arsenals: nuclear, biological, and chemical threats. Carnegie Endowment. pp. 263–4. 
  11. Plushnick-Masti, Ramit (25 August 2006). "Israel Buys 2 Nuclear-Capable Submarines". Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ben-David, Alon (1 October 2009). "Israel seeks sixth Dolphin in light of Iranian 'threat'". Jane's Defence Weekly. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Mahnaimi, Uzi (30 May 2010). "Israel stations nuclear missile subs off Iran". London. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Katz, Yaakov (3 May 2012). "Israel takes delivery of 4th submarine in Germany". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Lappin, Yaakov (28 July 2013). "Navy seeks teenage submarine recruits for Dolphin-class vessels". Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  16. Lilach Shoval and Mati Tuchfeld (29 April 2013). "Israel receives fifth Dolphin-class submarine from Germany". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  17. Lappin, Yaakov (21 March 2012). "Israel purchases sixth submarine from Germany". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  18. "Germany Sells Israel More Dolphin Subs". 3 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  19. "IAI seeks foreign investors to develop new missile warship". iStockAnalyst. 2013-10-11. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  20. 20.0 20.1
  21. 21.0 21.1 Williams, Dan (25 November 2009). "Israel seeks discount on two German warships". Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  23. "Israel: Submarines". Weapons of mass Destruction. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "German-Israeli Dolphin AIP Sub Contract Signed". Defense Industry Daily. 22 August 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  25. Captain(Res.) I. Fogelson, Captain(Res.) M. Keisary, Commander(Res.) R. D. Koehler (11.12.1999). "The Dolphin Project". Zahal (Israel military store). Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  26. "Title unknown" (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  27. Weinthal, Benjamin (18 January 2010). "First German-Israeli cabinet set to meet". Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  28. Katz, Yaakov (23 July 2010). "MOD: No talks with Germany over sub". Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  29. Shiffer, Shimon (5 May 2011). "Israel buys Dolphin submarine".,7340,L-4064989,00.html. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  30. Spiegel (July 17, 2011). "Deutschland subventioniert U-Boot für Israel" (in German).,1518,774904,00.html. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  31. Staff (18 July 2011). "'Germany to finalize sale of Dolphin submarine to Israel'". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  32. "Germany Threatens To Halt Submarine Sale to Israel.". 31 October 2011.,1518,794991,00.html. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  33. "Report: Israel concession on Palestinian funds forced by German submarine deal.". DPA. 4 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Title unknown". [dead link]
  35. Thomas, Valerie (1989). "Verification of Limits on Long-range Nuclear SLCMs" (pdf). pp. 27–57. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  36. "Popeye Turbo". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  37. Friedman, Norman (February 2003). "Up Periscope Up antenna" (pdf). Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  38. "Submarines: MTU Online". Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  39. "Israeli sub sails Suez, signaling reach to Iran". Jul 3, 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  40. "Israel sends sub as 'a warning'". Jul 06, 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-06. [dead link]
  41. Constantinople Convention of the Suez Canal
  42. Oren, Michael B. (2002). Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515174-7. 
  43. "Commander: Bahrain Not to Allow Israel's Presence in Territorial Waters". Archived from the original on 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  44. Issacharoff, Avi; Harel, Amos (25 December 2011). "Reports in Sudan: Israel struck two weapons convoys in past month". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  45. Paraszczuk, Joanna; Katz, Yaakov (25 December 2011). "Sudanese media report on Israeli air strikes". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  46. Zitun, Yoav (8 February 2012). "IDF submarine fleet bans dual citizenship".,7340,L-4187233,00.html. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 

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