In the early 80s' the navy started examining and later planning the submarine to replace the Gal class. The concept for the forth generation of Israeli submarines was a tailor-made submarine for Israel's specific needs. After a long search and consideration Germany was chosen by Israel to build its new submarines. Israel's Defence Minister at that time, Yitzahk Rabin approved the project and in August 1989 a contract with 2 German shipyards was signed and the Dolphin class submarine project was launched.
The heads of the Israeli Defence Forces, Zahal (IDF) were never navy oriented, and had a narrow knowledge of naval warfare. The price of one Dolphin submarine is extremely high, ($340 million). When it comes to cut the budget, the navy is the first to feel the axe. The land forces and the airforce will ever come before the navy when it comes to distribution of resources. In November of 1990, due to heavy budgetary burdens, IDF's Chief of Staff, Major General Ehud Barak (The current Prime Minister of Israel) and the new Defence Minister Moshe Arens, decided to call off the Dolphin Project. Nevertheless, 3 months later, Sadam Hussein Iraq's leader, by showing a perfect timing, offered his "help" and saved the project.
The hulls of the Dolphin and Leviathan are being built at Thyssen shipyards in Emden.
The launching of the Dolphin,
15th April 1996
In January of 1991 the Gulf War begun. Israel was requested by the Western Allies to sit still while every night, Scud missiles launched by Iraq hit the centres of Israel's cities. For weeks Israeli citizens were forced to sit in sealed rooms, wearing gas masks and wait for the chemical warhead missiles to hit. Israel decided to comply with the request of the USA and it's allies and did not retaliate.
During the war, German firms were accused of co-operating with Iraq and assisting her to produce various types of chemical weapons. Public opinion in Germany and in Israel was stormy. In an attempt to calm down the hostile atmosphere against Germany, to compensate Israel for it's economical losses and in order to maintain the German shipyards occupied, the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl decided to grant Israel with 2 new Dolphin Class submarines. (In early 1995, Germany and Israel finalised an agreement for the third submarine, each country will bear half of the costs.)
The Dolphin is the conventional submarine of the 21st century and is one of the most advanced diesel-electric submarines in the world. The submarines were built by Thyssen Nordseewerke at Emden and Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) at Kiel. The Dolphin is totally automated and computer integrated. Electronic systems developed by several major Israeli defense companies, including Tadiran, Israel Air Industry, Elisra, Elbit and Rada. Its sonar consists of Low Frequency Sonar and passive sonar. Its integrated fire control system lets it track and evaluate a significantly high number of targets.
The Dolphin on her journey from Emden to Kiel, 1996
Those submarines are amongst the smallest, but they are also among the most manoeuvrable armed underwater vessels. The co-operation with Israeli highly advanced electronic firms brought the electronic and the data processing equipment up to state of the art of weapons technology. Low sound radiation combined with a streamline design make those diesel-electric powered submarines difficult to locate and turn them into a lethal weapon.

Although the Dolphins are more than twice the size of the Gals, almost the same small crew operates them. They have to live, work and sleep in this narrow steel tube. A combination of specialist know-how, strength character and a spirit of comradeship, together with the ability to perform under pressure and not very comfortable conditions, are the essential requirements for service on the Dolphin submarines.


The Dolphin in Kiel after the transfer from TNSW shipyards in Emden to HDW shipyard in Kiel

The Dolphin-class boat are designed for interdiction, surveillance and intelligence gathering. It can also engage in special-forces operations, including landing amphibious forces ashore. The boat has 10 torpedo tubes and is capable of launching Harpoon missiles. While the subs are likely more important as a nuclear deterrent to land-based attacks, the Dolphin submarines offers Israel superior naval capabilities to its neighbors, as well.
Between the end of 1998 and at the beginning of 2000, the Dolphin, Leviathan and later the Tekumah, still under German flag moved to the Norwegian port of Kriestiansand. From the naval base of Marvika they sailed for their sea and dive trials in Norwegian waters.
On her way to Israel the Dolphin leaps out of the depths
(picture by Roni Shizer and Alex Rozkovsky)

A touching ceremony at sea
On July 25th 1999, two days before arrival at the port of Haifa, the Dolphin surfaced and stopped over the watery grave of its predecessor the INS Dakar. Commander of the flotilla and Dolphin's Chief of the Boat laid wreaths in the water. Crew members of the Dolphin threw 69 flowers to commemorate the memory of the 69 lost shipmates.

On Tuesday, July 27th 1999, the INS Dolphin arrived at her home port. The surface fleet and two Gal submarines welcomed her at the bay of Haifa and escorted the new submarine into the port. Four F-16 jets brought the greetings of the Israeli Airforce as they swooped down in a gala fly-past welcome. A festive ceremony with the participation of the State President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff welcomed the Dolphin as she docked at submarines pier at Haifa.
The skipper of the Dolphin, Commander Eyal gives the final orders of the 4 weeks journey from Germany to Israel
President Weizman, Prime Minister Barak and Chief of Staff Mofaz greet the crewmembers of the Dolphin.

Welcome ceremony for the INS Leviathan. Haifa, October 1999
By courtesy of the Naval Museum(click to enlarge)

General Characteristics: (Information from AMI International, Bremerton, WA 98337, USA)
Displacement tons: 1640 surfaced, 1900 diving
Length : 57.3 m (188ft), Beam : 6.8 m (22.6ft), Height: 12.7 m
Speed: 20 knots submerged, 11 knots snorkeling
Diving Depth: Deeper than 200 m(600 feet)
Range : 4500 miles at 8 knots
Crew : 35+10, Banks : 35, Provision: More than one month
Armament: Four 650mm(25.6 inch)and Six 533mm(21 inch)bow torpedo tubes. 6 reloads. The submarine has the capacity to carry anti-ship missiles, mines, decoys and STN Atlas wire-guided DM2A3 torpedoes. The surface-to-surface missile is the submarine-launched Harpoon which delivers a 227 kilogram warhead to a range of 130 kilometres at high subsonic speed.

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