Intelligence: Israeli Satellites Guide Arab Warplanes Over Iraq

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October 17, 2014: It was recently revealed that Israel had quietly and anonymously contributed some vital targeting information for the air campaign against ISIL in Iraq (and possibly Syria as well). It wasn’t that the U.S. doesn’t have spy satellites that could have provided this, but the Israeli fleet of spy satellites does not have worldwide responsibilities and spend most of their time over Middle Eastern nations and have been doing so for a long time. Thus the Israelis had satellite data right now that it would take weeks, months or longer for American satellites to compile. The Israeli contribution were kept quiet and Israeli data had been “scrubbed” to remove any evidence that it was from Israel. But none of the Arab nations contributing warplanes to the operation were surprised and, except for Iran (which openly insists ISIL is an invention of the Americans, British and Israel) no one complained.

Israel admits to having seven reconnaissance satellites in orbit (Ofek 5, 7, 9 and 10 military photo satellites, a radar satellite and two commercial photo satellites). The oldest of these is the Ofek 5, which has been in service since 2002. The latest launch was in April 2014 when the 400 kg (880 pound) Ofek 10, went up. It used the same Shavit 2 type launcher that sent the similar Ofek 9 into orbit in 2010. Ofek 9 had sensors able to see objects as small as 55 cm/twenty inches and the Ofek 10 sensors are believed to be even more precise.

Ofek 10 was the ninth Shavit launch, and the seventh 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). Israeli sometimes uses launchers from other nations. In 2008 an Israeli radar satellite, TekSar (also called Ofek 8), was launched in India, using an Indian launcher. In addition to the Ofeks 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). In 2008 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 build 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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