Israel has four Dolphin-class submarines in use with a fifth scheduled to arrive in Israel by the end of 2013 and a possible sixth to be added in 2014. The first subs were built in the 1990's at a shipyard in Germany and were shipped to Israel in order to replace three older Gal-class submarines which had been in use since the 1970's.
Since the establishment of the submarine fleet at the end of the 1950's, the Navy has used at least eleven submarines. The first of them, the INS (Israel Naval Ship) Rahav and INS Tanin, arrived in Israel in 1959 and 1960. INS Tanin participated in the landing of naval commandos in the port of Alexandria and the mine attack at the entrance to the port. Their service in the Israel Navy ended in the Six Day War.
In 1964, INS Dakar, INS Dolphin and INS Leviathan were purchased from the British Navy. INS Dakar failed to reach Israel, and remains lost at sea in the eastern Mediterranean. The Israel Navy did not give up trying to locate the missing submarine and, in 1999, it was discovered by a U.S. salvage team less than two miles beneath the surface southeast of Crete at a point along the vessel's original route.
The three Gal submarines were in use after the Six Day War until the arrival of the Dolphins in the lat 1990's.
The Dolphin-class submarines are not only the most advanced and sophisticated submarines that the Israeli Navy has ever used, they also play a crucial role in the "game" of deterrence in the volatile Middle East region. At extreme moments of tactical or strategic uncertainty, such as in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Israel’s first walls of defense are its long-range strategic arms – and the most secretive one is the submarine fleet led by the Dolphins.
The Dolphin submarines second-strike capability - in essence, its ability to fire off ballistic missiles against long-range targets in the event of an attack on the Israeli homefront - ensures that Israel's enemies realize that attacking the Jewish state with weapons of mass destruction will definitely be responded to in kind.
The Dolphin submarines can hold approximately 40 sailors onboard at any given time and have been known to take part in training operations around the world. Due to the secrative nature of the submarine fleet, though, Israel does not permit the Dolphins from docking in foreign ports - even in allied countries.
In April 2013, Israel unveiled it fifth Dolphin submarine, the INS Rahav, at a ceremony in Germany. The submarine was purchased after an extensive development and acquisition process led by the Ministry of Defense's Procurement and Production Directorate in cooperation with the Israeli Navy. The Rahav is scheduled to arrive in Israel by the end of 2013, upon completion of the installation of all of its operational systems, and is already considered to be one of the most advanced submarines in the world. It is the most expensive piece of machinery that the Ministry of Defense has procured for the IDF.