Israel Seeks to Buy German Missile Boats to Protect Offshore Gas

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Israel is seeking to buy advanced missile boats from Germany to protect drilling operations in its offshore natural gas fields. The government is hoping the deal can be concluded at a cost of about 1 billion euros.

Israel has previously bought six Dolphin submarines from Germany. The German government then agreed to cover a third of the cost of those purchases, as a way of expressing its commitment to Israel’s security.

Berlin hasn’t yet responded to the current request, partly because the new government elected in September hasn’t yet been sworn in. Chancellor Angela Merkel will need to consult her new foreign and defense ministers before making a decision.

A senior Israeli official said Israel needs three or four missile boats to protect the gas fields, which are located in the Mediterranean Sea. On October 21, the Israeli business daily Globes reported that the navy had drawn up a list of the equipment it needs to protect the fields and presented it to the diplomatic-security cabinet. The paper also reported that Israel had obtained price quotes from shipyards in Germany, South Korea and the United States.

The diplomatic-security cabinet discussed the matter and decided to try to purchase the boats from Germany. But in contrast to the submarines, which Israel never seriously considered buying from any country but Germany, the planned missile boat deal has sparked interest from several other countries.

Germany’s largest shipyard is currently in difficult economic straits and is hungry for new projects. The German government thus has a strong interest in approving the purchase: Aside from its direct financial value, it would give the shipyard some much-needed industry income and provide jobs for thousands of workers.

As a result, Jerusalem believes Berlin will probably accede to its request. Any such deal would require approval not only from Merkel, but also from the German parliament and the German equivalent of the diplomatic-security cabinet.

If the deal does go through, Germany will become the Israel Navy’s main supplier in the coming years. Currently, the navy has three German-made Dolphin submarines in operation. Three others are on order, with the fourth expected to be delivered in the coming months and the fifth toward the end of 2014. The sixth submarine will be delivered only in another few years, since that deal was signed only in March 2012.

An Israeli Dolphin-class submarine in the Mediterranean.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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