Israel’s navy now says it needs three nuclear submarines “as fast as possible” from a German shipyard being investigated for its links to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In an apparent policy U-turn, a senior officer this week said the German-made Dolphin AIP-class subs were now urgently needed, contradicting statements from a Navy commander in November, which focused on next-generation subs.
Netanyahu initially negotiated a $1.3 billion deal with Germany to buy the three vessels, against the wishes of then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who was replaced shortly after.
Since then, Israeli police have been investigating whether Netanyahu improperly favoured ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) in unusually-accelerated negotiations, the terms of which are unclear.
Police are investigating possible conflicts of interest between Netanyahu’s office and Kiel, the Germany-based shipyard building the Israel-bound subs. Netanyahu’s cousin and personal lawyer David Shimrom also represents Micky Ganor, a recently-retired Israeli officer and authorised agent of TKMS.
Netanyahu’s official government lawyer, Yitzhak Molcho, who negotiates with foreign governments on Israel’s behalf, is now believed to have discussed the matter with Shimrom, with whom he works.
Speaking to Defence News, the officer said: “We pretty much know what we want. It basically will be the AIP Dolphin-class submarines, with some room for growth, with new materials, better sonar … but pretty much the same design.”
From the initial order, it takes up to ten years for a submarine to become operational, and Israel’s existing Dolphin-class subs have a 30-year shelf life, meaning the Navy’s older subs will become obsolete around 2027.