In Wednesday morning’s New York Post, Ronald Lauder – former United States Ambassador to Austria and current President of the World Jewish Congress – made the case for enhanced Israeli submarine activity in the Indian Ocean as a necessary deterrent against an Iranian military threat.
In regards to a possible attack from Iran, Lauder writes “That’s why Israel needs to use the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans as a bastion for its diesel-powered submarines”. He briefly touches on the limited capabilities of diesel powered submarines and points to an Israeli test in the Indian Ocean, which sent a warhead 1,000 miles, as proof that the Israeli Navy can operate in the world’s third largest ocean.
They can, in a time of absolute necessity, for very short time-frames.
According to one military expert, diesel powered submarines are not designed and are not capable of making long range runs without the assistance of other submarines to help re-fuel.
“The size of the Israeli Navy, it’s very small, maybe with two more coming. You need a very significant number of submarines to have a strong presence all the time. The Indian Ocean is far away and huge limiting factors are diesel fuel and food”, says Retired US Naval Officer and current professor at the US Army War College, John Patch.
Lauder writes “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”. According to Patch, at least two diesel submarines would need to be operating in the Indian Ocean at once if the navy were to be engaged in long term operations there, due to the need for re-fueling.
Food may seem like a simple problem to solve, but it’s not.
“U.S. boomers that go on long patrols, their biggest limiting factor is food. It’s either provided by a ship at sea, which is not done by many countries because it’s very hard to pull up next to a ship, or you do it in port, and you get some repair parts and supplies”.
There is little doubt that Israel would be in favor of any and all deterrents against an Iranian attack, but in the case of a sustained Israeli submarine presence in the Indian Ocean, according to the professor it most likely isn’t possible anytime soon.
“In a pinch, to do it in a crisis situation, you could probably do that, but it would be very hard”, said Patch.