Israeli and US Navies Participate in Combined Maritime Exercise, Iran’s New Maritime Route Operation Under Watch

By Arie Egozi

Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv: While Iran is operating a new maritime route for carrying fuel and arms to Syria and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the US and Israeli navies are tightening their operational cooperation to meet the increasing Iranian naval activities in the area. In recent months, these activities included mainly attacks on cargo ships.

The naval operation of Iran will be used now to transfer systems for the upgrade of the rockets in the hands of the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel  in recent years attacked hundreds of targets that are related to this transfer operation. According to Israeli sources, the naval route is aimed  to bypass the ground and air routes. “This route is being followed closely by Israel” one sources said.

On Tuesday, the Israeli and American navies participated in a combined maritime exercise in the Red Sea. Israeli navy ships operated different scenarios in close cooperation with the US Naval Forces Central Command’s 5th Fleet in the Red Sea for the first time on August 31.

According to the IDF, three Israeli ships – the INS Eilat and two patrol boats operated in coordination with the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey and a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft that flew overhead. “The forces also exercised search and rescue scenarios, air defence, high-value unit defence and small boat operations, as well as tactical defensive manoeuvres”. Israeli sources say that the official release paints the exercise as a routine one, while it is not. “The scenarios were such that will help to join forces in real operations against a long list of threats,” one of the sources said.

The head of IDF naval operations, Brig Gen Daniel Hagari, said that the strategic cooperation between the forces is vital for regional security and that of the State of Israel. The exercise was performed when Iran is increasing its naval activities in the Gulf, and the Mediterranean.

In late July, Iranian armed drones hit an Israeli owned cargo ship off the coast of Oman killing two crew members. And the tension reached a new peak on September 2, when an Iranian ship carrying fuel reportedly reached Syria’s territorial waters, according to Iranian media and media in Lebanon on Thursday, September 2. Al-Akhbar Lebanese media outlet was the first to report the arrival. Israeli sources said that Iran by sending a loaded ship and announcing that others are being prepared, is “testing the US resolution”. The Israeli navy in recent years has been reinforced with new submarines and corvettes.

Rear Admiral (Ret.) Noam Feig, former chief of naval operations of the Israeli navy said that such a joint exercise builds a common operational language that enables two naval forces to better operate against common threats. “Such a cooperation is critical in sea operations,” he said.

Earlier this week, the fourth “SAAR 6” corvette of the Israeli navy arrived in Israel on Monday from Germany after a two-week voyage. The “Nizahon” (Victory) will now be equipped with Israeli developed systems.

The corvette has an overall length of 90m, a maximum beam of 13.2m and a height of 21.5m. The displacement of each corvette will be approximately 2,000t. The Air Defence system of the SAAR 6  combines the capabilities of the BARAK-8 missile and C-DOME system The SAAR-6 corvettes are mainly built to protect the Israeli Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which includes huge gas reservoirs in the Mediterranean.

The new German built Dolphin class submarines of the Israeli navy are being equipped after arriving to Israel with locally developed systems that will make them more capable against current and future threats.

The three advanced Dolphin AIP class submarines were built by German company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), and are equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP). The AIP enables the submarines total freedom from external air. That means that they can stay submerged for a longer time. According to foreign media at least one Israeli submarine is on station in the Gulf.

The new submarines are 12 meters longer and with 500 tons more displacement than the Dolphin 1 Submarines. The submarines sonar and defence systems are advanced and improved relative to their predecessors.

According to German magazine Der Spiegel, the Dolphin 2 subs can stay underwater for up to eighteen days. The Dolphin 2 weighs approximately 20 percent more than the older type and have dedicated diver-lockout chambers. The new class submarines are 226 feet long and can reach a speed of 25 Kts while submerged. They are capable of operating in depth of 1150 feet. The crew is 35 and another 15 “experts” can be on board.

The new submarines have six 21″  torpedo tubes and four 26″ torpedo tubes. Two of the new Dolphin 2 class submarines have been delivered. The third one will be delivered in the coming years.