TEL AVIV — After 32 months of system integration and seas trials, Israel's fifth Dolphin submarine left the Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) shipyard in Kiel, Germany, on Thursday and is scheduled to arrive at its home base in January.
The INS Rahav was inaugurated in April 2013, the fifth of six Israeli submarines built at the German shipyard with funding assistance from Berlin.
It follows the May 2012 inauguration of Israel's fourth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Tanin, which has been operational since its arrival at the Israel Navy's main base in Haifa last September.
Like the INS Tanin and the sixth submarine now undergoing hull construction at TKMS, INS Rahav features an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system that allows for extended mission range and endurance.
"Our fifth submarine is making the 3000-mile journey from Germany as we speak," a senior Navy officer told reporters. "The AIP system allows the submarine to be submerged for long periods without detection."
In a Dec. 17 briefing, the officer said that the INS Rahav is equipped with anti-submarine warfare systems, a full weapons suite, advanced C4 and intelligence systems, and a spectrum of electronic-warfare capabilities.
The sixth and last planned Dolphin-class submarine is expected to become operational in 2019.
Israel's Dolphin-class submarines accommodate a crew of about 50 and are considered a national-level strategic capability. They are the product of two decades of strategic cooperation between Israel and Germany.
Constructed in Kiel according to Israeli design specifications, the submarines host Israeli-developed command, control and combat systems including, according to foreign reports, land-attack and cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Berlin funded construction costs for Israel's first two Dolphins, shared half the cost of Israel's third submarine, and has underwritten about a third of the costs for the fourth and fifth vessels. Under a government-to-government contract signed in 2012 for the sixth submarine, Berlin agreed to underwrite some 135 million Euro on an acquisition that sources here have estimated to exceed 600 million Euro.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.