For more than two years, Israel's Leviathan submarine, one of three in the Israel Navy, has undergone careful and continuous renovation. Dozens of naval technicians, electricians and engineers have invested a staggering 360,000 manpower hours in restoring the 15-year-old vessel to her original glory, taking her apart piece by piece and rebuilding her anew.
"We installed new combat systems," says a senior naval officer. "We upgraded her underwater detection capabilities, as well as her navigation system, sonar, motors, air conditioning and communication, down to the last valve. Today, the Leviathan sees further than ever, and sails further than ever."
The overhaul includes upgraded periscopes, arguably the most important tool in a submarine's armor. They now have a greater range of vision over the waterline, allowing the vessel to get clearer and higher quality images. The torpedo launch tubes and support system have also been given a facelift, making the missiles faster and deadlier. The sub's 600 batteries have also been replaced, each of which weighs in at a hefty 400 kilos.
The "half-life" overhaul is the most expansive renovation that a sub in the Israeli navy gets. It is also the most expensive, both in the navy and the entire IDF. The final bill comes to some 150 million shekels (approx. $43 million), and even includes a coat of paint that prevents marine life from attaching themselves to the sides of the vessel.
For months, work on the submarine in Haifa was carried out under the threat of rocket fire from the north; some of the repairs were even carried out behind the safety of reinforced concrete blocks. The navy is certain that its Haifa base would be a primary target for Hezbollah should another Lebanon War break out, and as such built its first reinforced hangar, to allow work on any large vessel even while under rocket attack.
The three subs in the naval fleet will be joined in the coming year by two new vessels – the INS Tanin (crocodile) from Germany in the fall, and a few months later by another submarine from the US. The vessels – the largest and most expensive weapon in the Israeli army's arsenal – are mostly in operation far from the country's shores, carrying out 54 special ops in 2013 alone.