Israel Missile Update – 2002

Israel has an arsenal of two-stage “Jericho” ballistic missiles which can deliver a nuclear warhead to any point in the Middle East and probably beyond. Israel is pursuing a military satellite program and has deployed several batteries of the Arrow missile defense system to shield against the missiles of its neighbors.


In December 2001, it was reported that Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) had completed the production of the newest Ofek spy satellite and that IAI expected to mate the satellite with an improved Shavit launcher for a possible launch – if no complications arise – in late January or early February 2002. This comes on the heels of a report, published in September 2001 by Israel’s Comptroller-General, that the Ofek program was running six years behind schedule and would cost four times the amount budgeted since the launch of Ofek-3 in 1995. The report cited poor oversight, management deficiencies and a lack of coordination among Israeli military and intelligence agencies and the Ministry of Defense as the reasons for the delays and cost overruns.

Israel is also moving ahead with plans to produce a jam-proof military communications satellite, according to Major General Isaac Ben-Israel, the head of military research and development at the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He told Defense News that the planned spacecraft will weigh between one and two tons, is expected to cost $300 million to $400 million over the next five years, and will most likely be launched by a U.S. rocket.

In December 2000, the Eros A-1 photo-reconnaissance satellite was launched from the Svobodny cosmodrome in eastern Russia. The satellite is slated to be the first of eight Eros satellites launched between 2000 and 2004. The 250-kilogram satellite, which has a reported resolution of 1.8 meters, was deployed in an orbit 480 kilometers above the Earth.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense is the prime customer for Eros. Unlike the currently deployed Ofek-3 military satellite – which has already outlived its lifespan by more than three years – the Eros follows a polar orbit which allows the satellite to monitor multiple targets in the same area. Like the Ofek satellites, Eros is built by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and contains remote sensing payloads manufactured by El-Op Electro-Optics Industries.

It was reported in December 2001 that ImageSat, which markets Eros, had not obtained enough customers to justify launching a second satellite. The report noted that only the Ministry of Defense and the governments of India and Taiwan were customers for Eros.

Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system

Israel’s Arrow program is a joint U.S.-Israel effort to develop a system for destroying missiles launched from Syria, Iran and Iraq by intercepting them before they enter Israeli airspace.

In July 2001, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that a Syrian Army exercise that included the launch of a Scud missile provided the chance for Israeli missile defense officials using the Green Pine radar to test all aspects of the Arrow system – except the actual launch of the Arrow interceptor missile. According to the report, the radar detected the launch of the Syrian missile and followed it on its 300-kilometer route until its impact in the Syrian desert. The events gave Israel the chance to test the system under “almost real time conditions.”

Israel reportedly tested the Arrow missile system again in August 2001, shooting down a live “Black Sparrow” missile which was dropped from an Israeli F-15 fighter at high altitude and assumed the flight path of an incoming Scud missile. The Black Sparrow was detected by the Green Pine radar, and an Arrow interceptor destroyed the incoming missile about 100 kilometers from the Israeli coastline. According to officials, this ninth test had the Arrow striking farther and higher than it had ever been tested.

Future Israeli plans to “more realistically” test the Arrow have run into roadblocks and could be delayed until 2004. According to a report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, Israel wants to test the Arrow system in long-range intercepts at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and Israel has requested the Scud-C as the target missile. However, U.S. officials have said that the U.S. Department of Defense does not have access to Scud-C missiles, and that the launch of a liquid-fueled Scud missile is too dangerous for nearby populated areas. Furthermore, White Sands is considered too small for a Scud-C launch. One possible solution, according to officials, is that the tests could be conducted at the U.S. missile test site at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

It was reported in January 2002 that Boeing and Israel Aircraft Industries were close to signing an agreement on the co-production of Arrow missiles in the United States. The U.S. Department of Defense and Congress have reportedly agreed to assist Boeing in establishing a U.S.-based production line for Arrow missiles, and the company is slated to receive more than $20 million in 2002 funding for pre-production expenses.

In an effort to comply with the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Boeing will produce 51 percent of Arrow missile components and parts – rather than complete missiles or subsystems – in the United States, and the remaining 49 percent of production will be done in Israel. The formula has reportedly been endorsed by the Pentagon and the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and awaits final approval from the U.S. Department of State. A State Department official reportedly noted that the Boeing co-production agreement covered only Israel’s use of the Arrow, and did not pertain to third country exports of the Arrow system – an issue that an Israeli official said had been shelved for at least a year.

Unmanned aerial vehicles

Israeli officials have reportedly approached the United States about the possibility of jointly developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could detect and destroy Scud-type ballistic missile launchers.

Defense cooperation

In July 2001, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) providing a framework for future defense cooperation. The Memorandum also calls for the transfer of unspecified technology from IAI to HAL. An Israeli spokesman said the agreement was “a milestone that will allow [Israel] to elevate defense cooperative relations with India to a higher level.”

India is reportedly working on integrating its Akash ground-to-air missile with the Arrow missile defense system. Under this program, India’s Rajendra phased array radar would be networked with the Green Pine radar. Both the Indian Air Force and the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) are reportedly involved in the project.