Permanent presence of warships and submarines in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea allows Tehran to keep surveillance of IDF Navy activities, which foreign reports claim Israel is conducting in the Red Sea and the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the reports, Israeli naval activity aims to thwart arms smuggling from Iran to the Gaza Strip. The cargos leave from Iranian ports, pass through Yemen and reach Sudan's Red Sea coast. From Sudan they are transported by land to Egypt and then to the Sinai Peninsula.
Another smuggling route is on board unsuspected merchant ships, which sail directly across the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and all the way to Port Said in Egypt, where the cargo is unloaded from the ships and loaded on another vessel that sails to Syria. The cargo can also be transported by land, through the tunnels, into the Gaza Strip.
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The reports claim that the IDF and Navy employ constant operational and intelligence efforts to thwart smuggling attempts, including sinking Iranian ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, attacking convoys en-route from Sudan to Egypt and seizing cargo ships suspected of carrying weapons to Syria or to Hamas.
Iranian naval presence in the Red Sea enables the Revolutionary Guard to track Israeli activity and secure arms shipments by warning the vessels carrying the weapons or the smugglers waiting on shore, and perhaps in the future – by directly confronting with Israeli naval forces.
Doubtless these Iranian subs will be on the hunt to intercept stealthy Israeli Dolphin 800 class subs, in order to provide protection for delivery by ship of arms and personnel to Hamas via the Egyptian Sinai. In February, Iran sent a Frigate and supply ship through the Suez Canal to the Syrian port of Latakia. Given the turmoil in Syria and rumored rebel control of northwest Syria, the Revolutionary Guard may be looking for options to supply proxies in the region. Iran has three Russian made kilo class diesel electric submarines and four midget submarines in its naval fleet.
Israel has three Dolphins in service, with one positioned in the Red Sea, and the other rotated between the Eastern Mediterranean and possible patrol in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Israel has two, possibly three more Dolphins on order from the HDW shipyards in Germany for delivery beginning in 2012. The Dolphins have been retrofitted for advanced air-propulsion systems for silent underwater running. The Dolphins are equipped with nuclear tipped tube-launched Popeye turbo cruise missiles with a range of 930 miles. The larger tubes on the Dolphins are also rigged for swimmer delivery vehicles for commando and intelligence missions.
So what we may have here is a game of undersea ‘chicken’ to be played out in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. This is a new turn in Iran’s 30 Year secret war against Israel. One that the Islamic republic's navy may find daunting, if not catastrophic, if conflicts erupt. The Israel Dolphin subs will be on the hunt for those aging Iranian Russian-made kilo subs on their first forays beyond the Persian Gulf.
For a glimpse, inside an Israel Dolphin sub on a training mission, read this 2009 Jerusalem Post , report, “Aboard the INS Dolphin.”