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Sub order: Israel to ask for German cash

BERLIN, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Germany has been asked to help fund yet another submarine for the Israeli navy.

Jerusalem plans to order another submarine of the Dolphin class from German Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG and has asked the German government to subsidize the order, German news magazine Der Spiegel reports.

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Berlin has helped Israel pay for five previously ordered submarines. The first two (named Dolphin and Leviathan) were a gift by Germany after it surfaced that German companies were involved with Iraq's chemical weapons program.

To save the orders and jobs for the German shipyards, Chancellor Helmut Kohl decided to pay for the first two subs with tax money and subsidize half of the third model, named Tehumah.

When Israel decided to order two more subs, Berlin chipped in a third of those costs as well. Those two submarines -- No. 4 and No. 5 -- were delivered last month. They are upgraded versions of the original Dolphin and feature an air-independent propulsion system.

Now No. 6 is ready to be ordered, and Israel is due to ask Berlin to shoulder at least part of the estimated $750 million price tag. In Germany, critics of the Israeli submarine deal fear that the vessels could be used to fire nuclear warheads. Observers nevertheless expect Berlin to subsidize the order.

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The Dolphin-class submarines are among the most sophisticated and capable conventional submarines in the world. The 190-foot non-nuclear sub is based on the German 209 class but is larger and more heavily armed.

The subs can fire torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and mines. The vessels are also believed to be capable of launching Popeye Turbo cruise missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads. These missiles have a range of up to 930 miles. A Dolphin-class submarine in a recent military exercise entered the Suez Canal together with an Egyptian escort, in a move that was widely interpreted as a warning to Iran.

HDW, owned by ThyssenKrupp and based in Kiel, is the largest shipyard in Germany. It has more than 2,400 employees.

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