Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Israel’s Submarines Step Up Their Role in ‘Shadow War’ with Iran

Israel’s Submarines Step Up Their Role in ‘Shadow War’ with Iran

Sunday, 22 August, 2021 - 09:00
Leviathan and a second Israeli navy submarine are seen during a naval maneuver in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Haifa, northern Israel June 9, 2021. Picture taken June 9, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

A few may argue that the Israeli Air Force is the crown jewel of the Israeli army, but geopolitical realities and the ongoing shadow war with Iran reveal that the Israeli army has another decisive card to play with, its Navy.

For decades, Israel’s submarine fleet conducted primarily classic intelligence gathering missions. The subs could get in and out of far-away places without being noticed.

But of late, the Israeli army "realized it could do so much more", an Israel Navy official told the N12 news portal.

The details of what the Israeli submarines are up to remains classified, of course. What is known is that they are operating far from Israel’s shores, and earlier this month Iran charged that at least 14 of its ships in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea had been attacked by Israeli forces.

If true, and Israel’s not officially taking responsibility, then submarines were almost certainly involved.

Gathering intelligence also remains a big part of the submarines’ role, but they can do more than just sit and listen. It was suggested in the N12 report that Israeli subs had been used to transport forces and individuals to and from far-away enemy territory.

“We are operating right under the enemy’s feet,” said the Navy, making the submarines not only a tactical asset, but a strategical one that gives Israel a degree of naval superiority over its regional foes.

This has not gone unnoticed by other branches of the military, and Navy officials told N12 that there is a growing demand for joint operations with the submarine fleet. So much so that they can’t keep up.

To remedy that situation, Israel will add a sixth submarine to its fleet in the coming years. The vessel is currently under construction in Germany, from which Israel purchases all of its submarines.

In 10-years' time, Israel is expected to replace at least half of its aging “Dolphin” class fleet with newer, more advanced and far larger submarines. The need to expand and modernize this secretive yet powerful force is becoming clearer by the day.

Regional tensions had reached a new peak after the July 29 attack on an Israeli-operated tanker off the coast of Oman, which Israel, the United States and Britain have accused Tehran of being behind.

According to analysis by The Telegraph at least 20 civilian ships have been attacked by mines, drones, and commandos in a rapidly spiraling “shadow war” between Iran and Israel.

Last year, Iranian destroyer Jamaran fired a missile that struck a logistics navy vessel called Konarak while conducting training exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15 others.

For his part, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had appointed a new navy commander as Iran-Israel tensions spike.

Khamenei appointed Adm. Shahram Irani as the new navy chief under the country’s army. He became the successor of Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, who has held the post since 2017.

In his decree, Khamenei urged Irani to improve the Navy. No reason was given for the replacement.

Editor Picks