Israel has allegedly deployed a permanent submarine presence in the Persian Gulf to keep an eye on Iran, according to media reports published Sunday. The three German-built submarines are reportedly equipped with nuclear cruise missiles.
Flotilla 7 is comprised of three submarines that have visited the region before – the Dolphin, the Tekuma and the Leviathan. Each crew includes between 35 to 50 soldiers and is commanded by a colonel.
At least one will remain in the area at all times, until further notice, according to “Colonel O,” the commander of the force quoted in the reports. “We are an underwater assault force, operating deep and far – very far – from our borders,” he said.
The submarines can stay submerged as deep as 1,150 feet below the surface, for as long as a week, and can remain at sea for some 50 days. “We [also] serve as a solid base for collecting sensitive information because we can stay in one place for a long time,” said an officer in the fleet.
The force is intended primarily as a deterrent, however. “The 1,500 kilometer range of the submarines' cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran,” noted a navy officer quoted by British newspaper The Sunday Times.
The deployment was sent in response to the recent delivery of Iranian-produced ballistic missiles from Syria to Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon and the opening of Syria to Hizbullah presence. The missiles have the capability of hitting air bases and other sensitive sites located deep in Israel, as far south as Tel Aviv and beyond.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly shared satellite imagery of the delivery of the missiles with U.S. President Barack Obama during his recent visit to the White House.
The London Times claimed satellite pictures show a Hizbullah base on Syrian soil which is a depot for arms to be delivered by Hizbullah truck fleet to Lebanon
Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Obama for a quick visit later in the week. President Shimon Peres and possibly Defense Minister Barak will be accompanying him as well. It will be the third such meeting so far this year.
Israel is hoping to acquire two more submarines that are even more advanced in the near future, the Meko A-100 built by Blohm and Voss, a division of Germany's Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) Group.
If the navy purchases the two vessels, it reportedly will arm them with air-defense capability, thus creating the world's first air defense corvettes – and giving the Israeli surface fleet independent air cover for the first time as well.