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Germany Redoubles Support for Israel

Germany Redoubles Support for Israel

Feb. 24, 2014 –  

TEL AVIV — Germany is redoubling its already considerable security assistance to Israel with last week’s approval of a discounted submarine deal and a recently delivered cost-free Patriot loaner air defense radar.

A senior German government official told the Associated Press Nov. 30 that the Cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel approved a longstanding Israeli request for an additional Dolphin submarine, Israel’s sixth, and has earmarked €135 million (US $180 million) to subsidize about a third of its cost.

Spokesmen from the German MoD and the German Economics Ministry could not confirm the report when contacted Dec. 1, but Defense News has learned that the director-general of Israel’s MoD, retired Maj. Gen. Udi Shani, plans to visit Germany early this week to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for Israel’s sixth Dolphin-class submarine.

Israeli sources here declined to discuss details of the prospective deal, yet noted that costs for the sixth submarine would exceed €600 million.

The German subsidy would cover about a third of the costs to construct the hull at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), the Kiel, Germany-based shipbuilding division of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS). Remaining costs would be covered by Israeli national funds and US Offshore Procurement, meaning the portion of US military aid that is converted into Israeli shekels for development, production and integration of indigenous combat systems.

The subsidized submarine deal is a follow-on option to a 2005 agreement under which Germany underwrote about a third of the cost of two new air-independent propulsion (AIP) Dolphins. Those two submarines – Dolphin 4 and Dolphin 5 in Israel’s planned six-submarine Dolphin fleet – are still undergoing construction in Kiel. They are slated to be delivered in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Once delivered, they will join three diesel electric Dolphins operational since 2001; two of them fully funded by Germany and the third of which was funded jointly by the two countries.

“Israel is enormously appreciative of Germany’s support for our underwater defense capabilities. But it’s not just a one-way street … This subsidy, like previous ones, goes directly to the shipyard and serves to support Germany’s industrial base,” a senior Israeli defense official said.

Defense and industry sources say it will take about seven years to ready the sixth Dolphin for deployment.

Free Loaner Radar

In another manifestation of expanding German-Israeli defense ties, the Israel Air Force (IAF) recently took delivery of a German Patriot radar provided as a cost-free loaner during the three or four years it takes Israel to retrofit its own inventory of AN/MPG-53 radars in the United States.

German, US and Israeli sources confirmed the trilateral cooperation, aimed at filling potential gaps in Israeli air defense coverage while IAF Patriot PAC-2 air defense radars are being serviced at the US Army’s Letterkenny Depot in Pennsylvania.

The loaner radar provided by the German Bundeswehr arrived here in-late October, shortly before the first of three Israeli Patriot radar sets was shipped to the United States for servicing. The German delivery marks an expansion of strategic cooperation with Israel, which received two full-up Patriot PAC-2 batteries from Luftwaffe stocks in 2003 in the run-up to the US-led coalition war in Iraq.

Sources say each radar will take about a year to replace aging components, extend service life, and improve its ability to interoperate with US European Command’s Patriot batteries that participate in biannual US-Israel exercises and could be rushed here for emergency deployment during wartime.

The entire upgrade program is estimated at $15 million and will be funded through annual US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Israel. Israeli and German officials confirmed that the German loaner radar would remain here until the upgrade program is complete and all Israeli radars are redeployed and integrated with other elements of the IAF’s Air Defense Force.

“Germany has contributed to the Air Defence System of Israel since 2003 with the loan of two Patriot systems. Additional components are temporarily on loan to maintain the operational capability of the systems,” Lt. Col. Holger Neumann, a German MoD spokesman, told Defense News.

An IAF officer emphasized that the recently launched Patriot radar upgrade is more logistical in nature and is not aimed at converting Israel’s PAC-2 air defense force to the PAC-3 ballistic missile intercepting configuration at this time.

Separating Politics From Security

The prospective submarine deal and the German loaner radar come amid unusually public tension between Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over deadlocked peace talks with the Palestine Authority.

Since Merkel’s visit here in late January, the German chancellor has repeatedly and publicly prodded Netanyahu to move more decisively toward a Palestinian peace deal and to refrain from additional construction in disputed East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such urgings became more acute over the summer and early autumn, when Merkel urged Netanyahu to seize opportunities inherent in the democratically inspired grassroots uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring.

But despite widely perceived Israeli intransigence on the political front, security ties with Germany — like strategic cooperation — are stronger than ever, and continue to expand, noted Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Berlin.

“There appears to be parallel tracks that allow Germany and the United States, for that matter, to augment security cooperation regardless of the frustration at the political and even personal level,” Stein said.

“And while steps taken by the Netanyahu government have caused more than a little irritation, the Iranian issue and other security concerns compel friendly countries like Germany to stand by Israel and to continue to strive to meet its security needs.

“The question is whether and at what point these two lines will intersect if core political differences remain unresolved,” he added.