Dolphin-class submarine 248.88.
(photo credit: IDF )
After a long hiatus, the Israeli Navy has returned to sailing through the Suez Canal, recently sending one of its advanced Dolphin-class submarines through the waterway to participate in naval maneuvers off the Eilat coast in the Red Sea.
IDF sources said the decision to allow navy vessels to sail through the canal was made recently and was a definite "change of policy" within the service. In 2005, then OC Navy Adm. David Ben-Bashat decided to stop sending Israeli ships through the canal due to growing threats in the area.
However, the Dolphin-class submarine sailed through last month to get from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Israeli officials said it passed through the canal above water, and that it was not done covertly.
"It is a question of policy," a senior officer explained. "Navy vessels have sailed through the canal on several occasions recently."
The significance of the move was debatable, but it could be interpreted as a message to Iran and a demonstration of strengthening ties between Egypt and Israel.
In the event of a conflict with Iran, and if Israel decided to involve its three Dolphin-class submarines - which according to foreign reports can fire nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and serve as a second-strike platform - the quickest route would be to send them through the Suez Canal.
The only way to get to the Gulf of Oman without refueling would be to go through the canal. With their reported 4,500 nautical mile range, taking the long way, around Africa, would require the Dolphins to make at least two stops for refueling at a friendly port, or for fuel to be replenished at sea.