OPINION – Ronald S. Lauder: How submarines could save Israel

OPINION – Ronald S. Lauder: How submarines could save Israel

 05 January 2012

The following opinion article by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was first published by the ‘New York Post’ on 4 January 2012.

It’s time the Israelis “went deep.” That is, it’s time they took their submarine force and reinvented it as a strategic deterrent against a potentially nuclear-armed Iran and its terrorist surrogates seeking to literally wipe Israel off the map. The Jewish state has never been a potent sea power. Its military has traditionally depended on a mobile land force of tanks, mechanized infantry and a powerful air force to confront the far more numerous Arab armies that have threatened its existence. Yet the reality is, warfare technology that could put Iranian nuclear warheads atop medium-range ballistic missiles should force changes in Israeli’s strategy to survive.

Even without an atomic threat, Israel faces a dangerous new world. While Iran is saber-rattling in the Straits of Hormuz, it has the means to launch an overwhelming barrage of conventionally armed ballistic missiles across Israel. Within the opening minutes of a surprise attack, Iran could destroy military bases, airfields and command centers. The Israelis are good but they aren’t invincible.

That’s why Israel needs to use the Mediterranean and Indian oceans as a bastion for its diesel-powered submarines. Today, it is reported that the Israeli Navy operates three of these modern, ultraquiet, effectively fresh-air-independent Dolphin-class submarines. Two more subs have been ordered and should be at the dock before the end of this year.

These submarines can’t be compared to America’s ocean-roaming billion-dollar “boomers,” with their phalanx of nuclear-tipped intercontinental-ballistic missiles. They don’t need to be. Israel has the means of firing what defense analysts say are nuclear capable Harpoon cruise missiles from within retrofitted torpedo tubes, its secret warheads giving Iranian war planners a lot to think about when plotting the destruction of what they call “The Zionist entity.”

While a Harpoon’s range is about 200 miles, published intelligence reports say Israel staged an Indian Ocean test in which it fired a mock warhead nearly 1,000 miles from its submarine — incidentally, the approximate distance between Tel Aviv and Tehran.

To be credible, Israel will need more than a five-boat fleet of subs. At least two submarines must be at sea at any given time, one in the Indian Ocean, to ensure a genuine deterrent, while others are undergoing maintenance, retrofitting and refueling.

Expanding Israel’s submarine fleet with a potent reach and powerful warheads would send a clear and unmistakable message to radical Islamic fundamentalists that Israel has the means to confront with massive deadly force a first strike nuclear attack in the Middle East.

Ironically, having such a fleet would recreate the kind of deterrence we saw during the Cold War, which kept enemies from attacking each other for some 40 years.