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Israel worried about possible German sub sale to Egypt
By YAAKOV KATZ
Israel is increasingly concerned that Germany might sell Dolphin-class submarines to Egypt, top defense and political officials told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Cairo, officials said, has opened talks with Berlin aimed at having the Egyptian navy purchase several Dolphin-class submarines, regarded as one of the top diesel-powered submarines in the world.
Egypt is apparently interested in upgrading its aging submarine fleet, though officials regard it as strange that Cairo is looking to buy exactly the same submarine that Israel operates.
Israel currently operates three Dolphin-class submarines made in Germany. The construction of two more submarines - ordered following the Second Lebanon War in 2006 - is scheduled to be completed by 2010.
According to foreign media reports, Israel's submarines are capable of launching a "second strike" in the event of a nuclear attack against Israel.
The Dolphin-class submarines are the most expensive platforms in the IDF's arsenal. Germany donated the first two submarines to Israel as a gift after the first Gulf War, and split the cost of the third.
The three submarines in the Israeli fleet work on a diesel-electric propulsion system that requires them to surface after relatively short periods underwater to recharge the batteries that keep them running when submerged.
The two Israeli submarines under construction will be fitted with a new German technology that combines a conventional system of a diesel generator with a lead acid battery, and an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, used for silent slow cruising, with a fuel cell equipped with oxygen and hydrogen storage.
Defense officials said they were concerned by Egypt's request to purchase the German submarines.
Egypt's navy has a larger fleet than Israel, including a number of large frigates and four Soviet-made Romeo-class submarines.
Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that if the deal went through, the balance of power in the Middle East would be affected.
With the new submarines, Egypt would be able to covertly collect intelligence against Israel, he said.
"The Egyptian fleet is already three times bigger than the Israeli fleet except for one platform - submarines - which we both have approximately the same number of, although ours are clearly more advanced and efficient," he said. "If such a deal takes place, this will have a real impact on the sea power in the Mediterranean."
Steinitz said the German Dolphin-class submarine was one of the best in the world and would give the Egyptians the ability to close major ports and sea routes.
"It is also almost impossible to prevent an attack from a submarine," he said.