Space: The Israeli Fleet


April 30, 2011: Israel has revealed that it has six reconnaissance satellites in orbit (Ofek 5, 7 and 9 military photo satellites, a radar satellite and two commercial photo satellites). The oldest of these is the Ofek 5, which has been in service for nine years. However, the latest launch was last June, when the 300 kg (660 pound) Ofek 9, went up. It used the same Shavit 2 type launcher that sent the similar Ofek 7 into orbit three years ago. Ofek 9 has more powerful sensors (able to see objects as small as 55 cm/twenty inches) than Ofek 7.

Ofek 9 was the ninth Shavit launch, and the sixth successful mission. The first launch of the Shavit was in 1988, and the current version (Shavit 2) can launch payloads as heavy as 800 kg (1,760 pounds). Israel sometimes uses launchers from other nations. Three years ago, an Israeli radar satellite, TekSar (also called Ofek 8), was launched in India, using an Indian launcher. It was implied that the next spy satellite launch (Opsat 3000) won't happen for four or more years. Opsat 3000 will have much more powerful sensors. In addition to Ofek 7, Ofek 9 and TekSar, Israeli intelligence also uses Eros B and Eros A (Israeli civilian photo satellite) for some military missions.

The first two stages of the Shavit are also used for the Israeli Jericho 3 IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile). Three years ago, Israel completed testing on the Jericho 3, which had actually gone into production the year before. With a range of nearly 5,000 kilometers, the Jericho 3 can drop a nuke anywhere in the Middle East. Jericho is a 30 ton, solid fuel, two stage missile, with a half ton payload. Israel is believed to have 50-100 of the shorter range Jericho 2s. This is a 26 ton missile with a max range of about 1,500 kilometers. The Jericho 1, developed with French assistance, entered service in 1973. This 500 kilometer range missile was gradually replaced by the Jericho 2, which entered service in 1989.

It requires two years for Israel to built a new recon satellite, and then it requires ten months to plan and carry out the launching, using an Israeli rocket. The satellite launch facility is located at the same Palmahim Air Base where Jericho 3 ballistic missiles and Arrow anti-missile missiles are also based.





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