Report: Israel test fired nuclear
capable, sub-launched cruise
By Douglas Davis
LONDON (June 19) - Israel secretly test-fired
cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear
weapons off the coast of Sri Lanka last month, the
Sunday Times of London reported yesterday.
Quoting Israeli defense sources, the paper reported
that the tests were conducted from two
German-built, Dolphin-class submarines and
involved Israeli-made missiles equipped with
conventional warheads hitting targets at sea at a
range of about 1,500 kilometers.
The sources were quoted as saying the launches
were intended to simulate swift retaliation against a
preemptive nuclear attack from Iran.
Israel is only the third country - after America and
Russia - to acquire the ability to fire
nuclear-capable cruise missiles from submarines.
The navy dismissed the report. "The report is
baseless. This kind of test firing did not take place,"
said a statement by the IDF Spokesman.
Nevertheless, reports of the Dolphin's
cruise-missile capability continue to surface in the
foreign press. Israel has never admitted that it has
any cruise missiles and has sought Tomahawks from
the US, which has so far rejected the request.
However, according to Jane's Defense Weekly,
Israel has modified the Popeye Turbo into an
air-launched cruise missile with a range of over
200 km. The Popeye was developed and built by
Rafael, which has a sophisticated missile
TAAS-Israel Industries has also developed the
air-launched Delilah cruise missile, which has a
range of 400 km.
The Dolphin has 10 multi-purpose torpedo tubes
which are designed for 21-inch diameter weapons.
The submarines, which were originally turned
down because they were too expensive, were given
to Israel at cut rates during the Gulf War as
compensation for Iraq's development of
non-conventional weapons using German
technologies. A third submarine is expected to be
operational within weeks.
The paper said Israel, which already has land- and
air-based nuclear weapons, now plans to equip
each of the three submarines with four cruise
Under a system of rotation, the paper continued, two
of the vessels will remain at sea - one in the Red
Sea, the other in the Mediterranean, while the third
will be kept on standby.
The missiles, said the paper, will be fired only after
approval by four people: the prime minister,
defense minister, chief of General Staff, and navy
The 1,720-ton diesel-electric Dolphin submarines -
twice the size of Israel's 23-year-old Gal-class
submarines - are among the most technically
advanced of their kind. They are virtually
impossible to detect and can remain at sea for up to
According to the Sunday Times, Israel's intention to
use the submarines as "roving nuclear launch
platforms" had long been suspected, but few experts
had expected Israel to develop the capability to fire
submarine-based cruise missiles so soon.
It said planning for a submarine-launched nuclear
deterrent was accelerated after the Mossad reported
in the early 1990s that Iran would be capable of
staging a nuclear missile attack against Israel by
Latest estimates put the threat back two years, said
the paper, but uncertainty over Iran's level of
nuclear capability has not reduced Israel's drive to
bolster its defenses.
The paper said "elite crews" have been assembled
to man the submarines and that the 35 officers and
men aboard each vessel have been nicknamed
"Force 700" because of the average 700 points they
are required to score in psychological tests -
equivalent to an IQ rating of 130-140.
Another five specially selected officers solely
responsible for the warheads will be added to each
vessel once the missiles are operational.
The paper quoted a US defense analyst as saying:
"This is certain to irritate the Clinton
administration. It makes it that much harder to get
non-proliferation to stick in the Middle East."
(Arieh O'Sullivan contributed to this report.)
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