The owning of a submarine armed with nuclear weapons is one of the class of military assets which confers on the nation state possessing it what is known as “second strike capability”.
Israel operates three submarines that are likely equipped with nuclear tipped cruise missiles. These vessels certainly meet the requirements of providing a second strike and I suspect they have more options beyond these.
Let's have a look inside Israel's nuclear arsenal, which is now being forward deployed in preparation to strike Iran.
When you're attacked with nuclear weapons and your opponent gets the drop on you there is a distinct possibility, especially for a smaller nuclear armed state like Israel, that the first attack has wiped out the civilian government and most if not all of the military ability to respond. Any asset that is out of harm's way and can stage a response is considered part of a second strike capability.
During the cold war America relied on a “nuclear triad”. Our missiles were many and broadly dispersed in the interior of the country. But they might be taken out by a carefully timed barrage of nuclear weapons, picking them off in flight by damaging their electronics with the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear detonation. Our aircraft were closer and armed with gravity bombs at first and later nuclear tipped cruise missiles. They faced a different set of hazards and it was quite unlikely all of them could be stopped, but the chance was there. The most sneaky of all are our nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines. There have been several versions to receive the label SSBN, but the current crop are fourteen Ohio class boats. These three legs of the triad provide what is known as MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction.
Israel, per this Jerusalem post article, is going to keep one of its three Dolphin class submarines forward deployed in the Persian Gulf. Long term it would appear that Israel is losing faith in the ability or the willingness of the United States to provide a long, strong arm to back them. The submarine fleet is expected to double from three dolphins to six based on this article. These boats would be run in rotation out of the Red Sea port of Eliat.
This map should help you visualize the situation. The Israeli navy has a base in Eliat, which is near Al Aquaba. The subs would have to run down the Red Sea, through the Gulf of Aden into the Arabian Sea, and then through the Gulf of Oman into the Persian Gulf.
These ships have a 2,800 mile range and a reported fifty day endurance. They'd have maybe been able to refuel at the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, but I recall from a report I saw last night that tensions between the U.S. And Israel have cost them their aircraft landing rights and presumably this displeasure extends to no support for their strategic
The Dolphin class are armed with six standard 533mm torpedo tubes for anti-ship action and there are four 648mm tubes as well. Those four tubes are likely populated with modified version of the AGM-142 Have Nap cruise missile called the Popeye Turbo. My reading of the open source information indicates this system is not well understood. Is the range 200 miles? Or is it closer to 900? That range makes a big difference in deployment and doctrine.
You will need Google Earth if you want to see my detailed map of civilian and military assets in the Persian Gulf. You can see a full size version with readable text if you want a closer look and don't have Google Earth. I put a lot of time into this back in 2007 – I don't know any resource that shows all the Iranian military facilities OR all of the oil and gas production locations OR the ports of the region. This has all three to the best ability of a snow bound mildly autistic adult who likes making maps.
So, if the range is only 200 miles the Iranian capital, some 500 miles from the shores of the Gulf, is perfectly safe. If the range is 900 miles or more the 14th TAB (Tactical Air Base) at Mashhad on the Afghan border is within reach.
These are dangerous times and I hear much more than I report on DailyKos. I truly hope this news of the transfer of operational nuclear tipped cruise missiles from Ukraine to Iran is a complex fake. I can see I need to do something about Iran's military assets next ...