The Israeli submarine fleet and its operational capabilities


The Israeli Navy currently has 5 modern submarines of the so-called "Dolphin" class. They were ordered in German shipyards, built there and delivered. The basis of the Dolphin is the smaller German submarine class 209. The Dolphin is a converted and upgraded variant to the specifications of the Israeli customer. The financing was partly taken over by the Federal Republic of Germany.
The delivered submarines were built in two batches. The first three submarines of the class have a simple diesel-electric drive, the following (Dolphin-II) an additional
"Air Independent Propulsion" (AIP) system for the motors and more fuel. The AIP is a system that allows a submarine to run its diesel engines without having to bring a snorkel to the surface to supply the batteries with air.
The Dolphin-II boats are about 11m longer than the first three Dolphin boats. Externally, the Dolphin-II is just a Dolphin-class boat with an extended area behind the tower containing the AIP systems.
Importantly, the boats can be equipped with nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The estimated range of Dolphin-II boats is
15000 nautical miles.The Dolphin-II is capable of reaching a top speed of 25 knots (46.3 km/h) underwater and can operate without resupply for up to 30 days under normal operating conditions.



Dolphin class

INS Dolphin


INS Leviathan


INS Tekumah


Dolphin-II (AIP) class

INS Tanin


INS Rahav


INS Drakon



Operational capabilities

The "Dolphin" submarines are normally operated in the Mediterranean. The port of Haifa is the naval base.
Speculation about an Israeli submarine base in
Eilat on the Red Sea is downplayed. "Israel has no plan to station submarines in Eilat." "Submarines need open water, and that is not the case in Eilat (?)," said a high-level naval source in 2009.

However, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine participated in a drill off Eilat in the same year after sailing from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. Witnesses said the submarine "INS Leviathan" docked at Eilat's naval base. It was then returned along with an Israeli missile boat through the Suez Canal. This was the first such trip for the secret boat and a sign of Israel's growing strategic reach.

The transparent use of a base in Eilat would mean that a "Dolphin" submarine must use the Suez Canal, which is fully exposed. The channel is too shallow for submersion.
A discrete option would be to sail around Africa. But such a trip would take weeks. An additional supply of fuel during this trip would not be required.

  Dolphin Dolphin-II**


8,000 sm
(14,816 km)
15,000 sm
(27,790 km)

submerged (12h)

(37.04 km/h)
(46.3 km/h)

Max. speed
emerged (12h)

(20.37 km/h)
(29.63 km/h)

average speed

(28.70 km/h)
(38.0 km/h)

Calculated days
for the range

21.5 30.5
** Route Haifa - Eilat ca.11,500sm around Africa
This option is very realistic if the intention is to operate secret in the Gulf. A temporary base Eilat would be an ideal docking station to supply the submarines with fuel and provisions or for crew-change after the long trip around Africa and also after "patrols" in the Persian Gulf. If the boat use an empty mooring at night, nothing will be noticed.


Two Israeli "Dolphin" in Eilat at the same place at different times