Israeli navy Dolphin-class submarine
Israeli navy Dolphin-class submarineIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The IDF on Thursday launched the fourth Dolphin-class submarine – the INS Tanin [Crocodile] – to enter the service of Israel's Navy. The ceremony, held in the German shipyards at Kiel near Hamburg, comes as Israel looks to built up its deterrent power on the seas.

Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg, Navy Commander, said at the launching: "We are launching the Tanin, Israel's fourth submarine, today. This ability is a very very critical one for the state of Israel. It depends on the technological ability, first and foremost, and then on the ability of the people, commanders and fighters, to make the most of the abilities of this vessel in order to eventually bring peace to the State of Israel."

Director of the Department of Defense Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Shani, added: "I have to salute the government of Germany, and all of Germany, for the truly large scale assistance it gave us in this project and others."

Reports claim Israel has modified the Dolphin's 650mm launch tubes to allow the launch of missiles that could carry nuclear warheads. Such missiles would feasibly give Israel – which maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity – a second-strike deterrent capability.

The new Dolphin also has state of the art systems propulsion systems, and other technological improvements, that allow for underwater operations of a longer duration than most of its competitors.

An IDF crew for the new submarine has already been trained at Israeli and German facilities, which is now embarking on a series of shakedown cruises to test the Dolphin's systems. It is expected to sail for Israel and be absorbed into operational service in early 2013.

The Dolphins, based on the German A212 submarine, weigh 1,900 tons and equipped with ten launchers for torpedo missiles.

Israel has already purchased a a fifth Dolphin-class submarine at a subsidized rate from Berlin, and has an option for a sixth.

“This sixth submarine we are talking about is an option Israel will have to decide on, as a continuation of the deal for building the fourth and fifth submarines," a security official told Israel Defense.

"Its systems will enable us to stay underwater for two weeks without surfacing, almost like a nuclear mini-submarine, without the noise generated by a nuclear submarine that jeopardizes its survival.”

The purchase of additional, upgraded Dolphin-class submarines are a part of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's push for strategic systems that would allow Israel to project force into the "third sphere" – the Persian Gulf.