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August 7, 2016 7:06 am

Israeli Navy Sets Sights on Narco-Subs as Greatest Imminent Challenge to Maritime Security

avatar by Lea Speyer

An official with the Israeli Navy said it is only a matter of time until narco-submarines, like this one pictured  used by Colombian drug smugglers, are utilized by terror groups to smuggle weapons. Photo: US Navy.

A narco-submarine. Photo: US Navy.

Israel’s navy is preparing for the day when it will be forced to confront a new and imminent threat: small submarines normally used for smuggling narcotics, Defense News reported on Thursday.

“In the maritime world, subsurface threats are multiplying. Many are garage technology submarines that drug lords have built in their backyards. Others are much more sophisticated,” said Rear Adm. Yossi Ashkenazi, the head of the Israeli Navy’s Materiel Command. “If criminals can deliver 10 tons of drugs over long distances undetected, terrorists can do the same with weaponry.”

Ashkenazi told Defense News that though there is no “firm indication” that Hamas and Hezbollah are utilizing narco-subs, he said it is only a matter of time, as the narcotics trade and terrorism become increasingly linked. “We’re very carefully watching this. The possibility of these unmanned subs getting leaked to other organizations puts us in a place where we have elevated our awareness of how to deal with subsurface threats,” he said.

As reported by The Algemeiner, following Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the Israel Air Force warned that the terrorist organization that runs Gaza might try to exploit narco-submarines to replenish its then-depleted arsenal.

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Ashkenazi told Defense News that, as part of bolstering its defense and detection abilities, the navy is working closely with two Israeli defense contractors — Rafael and Elbit — to develop its technological capabilities.

The move to improve the Israeli Navy’s underwater capabilities underwater extends above water, as well, according to Defense News, which reported that after more than a decade of talks with the US Navy, the Israeli Navy will purchase 76mm rapid-fire guns to outfit Israel’s surface fleet of Sa’ar-4.5 vessels, US-built Sa’ar-5 corvettes and four new Sa’ar-6 corvettes.

“We’ve been waiting for this gun for many, many years,” an Israel Navy captain said.

Narco-subs are semi-submersible vessels, making them very hard to detect through radar since they travel right below the water’s surface. Most times, they are camouflaged to blend in with the water.

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