When INS Tanin, the new super-Dolphin submarine Israel took delivery of this week, finishes its sea trials and goes operational some time next year, the Israeli Navy will be able to station a nuclear-armed submarine in the Arabian Gulf full time. That should worry Iran's rulers a lot more than all the talk coming out of the United States and Israel telling the ayatollahs to abandon their plans to build nuclear weapons.
The Tanin is one of the most advanced, sophisticated and lethal submarines in the world, far ahead of anything in the Iranian navy or any Arab fleet. Two more are under construction in the Kiel shipyard in Hamburg, Germany: the Rahav, scheduled to be operational in 2014, and a third in 2017. They cost about half a billion each, with the German government picking up about a third.
These stealthy super-subs have a new type of propulsion system and design that makes them highly maneuverable at low speeds, can remain underwater for weeks instead of days like other non-nuclear boats, have an advanced satellite communications system and can launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles.
These factors dramatically extend the reach of the Israeli Navy and make it a powerful third branch of Israel's triad, along with the extended-range Jericho missile and the IAF's advanced F-15 and F-16 fighter-bombers.
The Jericho III, with a range reportedly in excess of 4,000 miles, can hit any target in Iran. Unlike Iranian missiles, it is fully operational, tested, highly accurate and believed capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.
The Israeli government does not admit to having nuclear weapons, saying only that it will not be the first to use them in the region. Reports from foreign sources put the size of the Israeli nuclear arsenal from around 50 to more than 200 weapons.
The new generation of submarines – the Israeli Navy already has three older Dolphins — give Israel a second strike capability in the event of an enemy attack. That is also a powerful deterrent for an enemy like Iran that may think that launching a surprise nuclear attack on Israel.
According to a report in Israel Defense News, the new subs' advanced Israeli "super secret" systems, once installed, will be comparable to those "found perhaps only in U.S. nuclear submarines."