JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Israel’s fleet of Dolphin-class submarines, built and partially funded by Germany, are capable of launching nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.
The cruise missiles are reportedly a modification of the Israeli-manufactured Popeye missile and can be launched from a submerged submarine by a sophisticated hydraulic system, Der Spiegel claims.
The magazine’s elaborate, 12-page expose on Israel’s submarine capability, titled, “Secret Operation Samson: How Germany arms nuclear Israel,” is being published on Monday.
In a teaser to the story published Sunday, Der Spiegel writes: “Research in Germany, Israel, and the US leaves no room for doubt. Using German marine technology, Israel has created a floating nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.”
Israel has three Dolphin-class submarines on active service, with a fourth acquired last month undergoing sea trials. A fifth Dolphin is due to be delivered in 2018, and the contract for a sixth was recently signed.
According to Der Spiegel, the Dolphin-class submarines are armed with Israeli-designed Popeye missiles, which can carry a nuclear warhead of up to 200 kilograms. The magazine claims the warheads are produced at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor.
Military observers have long speculated that Israel’s submarine fleet is designed to provide the country with a “second strike” capability that would survive any attack and enable Israel to strike back—thus providing a deterrent against such an attack. The submarine cruise missiles are said to have a range of 1,500 kilometers.
Israel follows a policy of deliberate ambiguity regarding having a nuclear weapons capability, believing this serves as a deterrent. Nevertheless, it has been widely rumored for decades to have a nuclear arsenal.
According to a senior Israel Navy officer speaking upon the arrival of the latest Dolphin, the “submarine has a range for everything,” adding that it needs to refuel and charge its batteries only once in a long while and can remain submerged for 18 days.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Der Spiegel in response to the article, “The Germans can be proud that they are ensuring the existence of the State of Israel for many years to come.”