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Dolphin-class submarine
Dolphin-class submarine

The Israeli navy’s fleet of Dolphin-class subs is expanding. The fifth vessel is expected to arrive in Israel within a year’s time and join its “deep sea fleet”. The submarine, which has already been inaugurated at Kiel, Germany, is scheduled to arrive at its home base after work is completed on the weapons systems, engines and electronics, rendering it operational. Before its departure from the docks in Germany, the sub will undergo a series of meticulous diving tests.

Upon the recent arrival of Israel’s fourth Dolphin-class submarine, German defense experts specializing in naval warfare gave an interview to the credible publication Der Spiegel. They revealed the primary assault capability of the new subs, which was a well-kept secret until then. The subs feature all the necessary technological means for launching Israel-made Popeye Turbo missiles which can carry nuclear warheads.

Each Dolphin-class submarine has an electric power unit which is a diesel engine combined with electric cells manufactured by Siemens. The power is generated without any resulting sound. The power unit consists of 9 elements, each of which produce 300kw. The subs’ speed can reach 13 knots (1,852 meters or one nautical mile per hour) for 20 days, with a near zero sound signature.

Dolphin-class submarines comprise 2 fundamental parts: an outer body and an inner body. The subs’ exterior, which is made of light alloy combined with other composite materials, is coated with a noise-absorbing material. Tests have proven the subs’ noise generation – the factor which allows it to be discovered in motion – matches the the natural sound of the sea.

iHLS Israel Homeland Security

The submarine’s internal body is made of low-magnetic alloys designed to minimize its sound signature. Most of the parts of its diesel engine are installed on special devices, such as a ’moving floor’ in order to further curtail its sound. The space between the two bodies houses the subs’ revolutionary engine, which combines an electro-chemical generator which uses hydrogen and oxygen-based fuel cells. The power generated is used to produce oxygen.

In addition, the subs feature Israeli-made systems, such as Elbit’s locking detector, high precision systems to track enemy radar, a ELTA Systems-made radar system for tracking surface targets, and an acoustic identification unit. The subs are equipped with a unique sonar which has a side FAS-3 antenna as well as two periscopes made by Kollmorgen from the US.

As for its weapons systems, the subs have six 533mm torpedo launchers. According to various publications worldwide, Israel acquired DM2A4 torpedoes from Germany. In 2012, the manufacturer upgraded the torpedoes and extended their operative range to 140km. Each torpedo is fitted with an electromagnetic engine with an average speed of 92.6 kmh. In addition, each submarine has 4 additional vertical 648mm launchers for its Popeye Turbo missiles, whose range is 1500km.

The new subs are 68.6m long, 11 meters longer than the more veteran Dolphin-class models. The subs can travel at a speed of 13 knots under water and over 20 knots above the surface, and they can dive as deep as 300 to 350 meters.