LONDON — Germany is balking at an Israeli request for at least
two Dolphin-class diesel submarines.
German officials and industry sources said the considerations for the
sale will focus on whether Israel would use the submarines for nuclear or
strategic strikes against Iran or Arab adversaries. The officials said this
has been the growing concern by the Bundestag, or Germany's parliament.
Currently, officials and analysts said, the prospect of an additional
Dolphin submarine sale to Israel appears remote. They cite a steady
reduction of German arms sales to Israel because of concern that they would
be deployed in the war against the Palestinians.
In 2000, Germany completed the delivery of three Dolphin-class
submarines, Middle East Newsline reported. Two of the submarines were transferred to Israel for free as
part of German compensation for help to Iraq's missile program in the 1980s.
Iraq fired 42 extended-range Scud-class missiles toward Israel during the
1991 Gulf war.
"Politically it would be impossible to justify," Otfried Nassauer, head
of the Information Center for Trans-Atlantic Security in Berlin, said. "It
would dangerously heat up the Middle East conflict."
Analysts said that Germany sold Israel $900 million worth of defense
products between 1998 and 2001. They said Germany is one of Israel's biggest
The Dolphin submarines underwent modifications at Germany's
Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft shipyards. In 1999, the German Defense Ministry
said the underwater vessels were outfitted with 650 mm artillery pieces
capable of launching the U.S.-origin Harpoon missile.
The Berlin government has allowed HDW to enter technical talks with
Israel to prepare for a formal proposal for the Dolphin submarines. The deal
is said to involve at least two submarines.
Today, many German parliamentarians and analysts believe that the
modifications were meant to fire missiles capable of bearing nuclear
warheads. Some of them believe Israel has developed a warhead small enough
to fit on conventional missiles.
Israel has discussed with Germany the prospect of procuring another two
Diesel-class submarines. Industry sources said Israel hopes that the
Dolphins could be manufactured in the United States in an arrangement that
would allow the Jewish state to use U.S. military aid to finance the
A U.S. company, the Chicago-based One Equity Partner, has a major stake
in HDW. But One Equity has abandoned efforts to sell HDW to a U.S. company,
such as Northrop Grumman, because nobody offered the price demanded by the
Chicago firm. HDW posted a loss of 122 million euros in the year that ended
on Sept. 30, 2003.
Officials don't expect Germany to reject Israel's request for additional
Dolphins. Instead, they expect Germany’s Security Committee, which makes
decisions on weapons contracts, to delay such a decision.
"Given the knowledge that the first three boats have been transformed
into atomic launching pads, Germany can only answer the request with a clear
'No'," Nassauer said.