Israel Missile Update – 2005

Israel continues to maintain a powerful arsenal of “Jericho” ballistic missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to any point in the Middle East. Israel is also pursuing a military satellite program and has deployed several batteries of the Arrow missile defense system to shield against the missiles of its neighbors. Israel is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime and has been identified by the U.S. Department of Commerce as a possible supplier of missile technology.

Ballistic Missiles

Israel maintains a sizeable arsenal of ballistic missiles that would enable it to deliver an offensive or retaliatory nuclear strike against any potential regional target. The core of Israel’s arsenal is its fleet of two-stage “Jericho” missiles. Israel’s Jericho-I missile is estimated to be capable of carrying a 450 to 650-kilogram payload up to 500 kilometers, and the Jericho-II of carrying a 750 to 1,000-kilogram payload considerably more than 1,500 kilometers. The three-stage Jericho-III missile, reportedly under development, is believed to have a range of 4,800 kilometers. Israel’s NEXT space launch vehicle, also under development, may consist of a bipropellant fourth stage (consisting of liquid fuel plus a liquid oxidizer) added to the three solid fuel stages of the Jericho-III missile.

Israel is also reportedly developing a new Long-Range Artillery (LORA) missile-which is said to be a precision-guided missile to strike stationary or semi-fixed targets. Defense News has described the IAI-produced LORA as capable of delivering a 570-kilogram warhead within a 200-kilometer range. According to Defense News, the LORA flew 120 kilometers in its March 2003 maiden developmental test flight before hitting its target in the Mediterranean Sea. Defense News also reported that the missile failed in a test in November 2003, but then succeeded in March 2005 when it hit a target some 200 kilometers from the launch site.

Israel also possesses the U.S.-supplied Lance missile. The Lance is a liquid-fueled, short-range, mobile, nuclear-capable missile with a range of 130 kilometers and a payload capacity of at least 210 kilograms.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, Israel had deployed, by the year 2000, fifty Jericho-I missiles on mobile launchers and one hundred Jericho-II missiles on underground wheeled transporter-erector-launchers or railroad flat cars.

In October 2003, the Los Angeles Times, citing Israeli and U.S. officials, reported that Israel had modified the American-supplied submarine-based Harpoon anti-ship missile to carry nuclear warheads. However, some defense experts dismissed this report, claiming that it is impossible to make a Harpoon nuclear-capable without limiting its range and accuracy.


In May 2002, Israel placed its Ofeq-5 spy satellite into orbit by means of a Shavit launcher. Developed and produced by the MLM division of Israel Aircraft Industries, the Shavit is a three-stage satellite launcher powered by solid fuel rocket motors. As previously reported in the Risk Report, the first two stages of the Shavit consist of Israel’s two-stage Jericho-II ballistic missile.

Israel’s satellite-based intelligence capabilities suffered a major setback in September 2004 when the country’s Ofeq-6 spy satellite was lost during launch. Imagery from Ofeq-6 was supposed to have supplemented coverage by the less sophisticated Ofeq-5, whose four-year lifespan is scheduled to end in 2006. The launch attempt failed when the third stage of the Shavit rocket carrying the satellite into orbit malfunctioned. This does not indicate any problems with the Jericho-II missile, however, as the first two stages of the Shavit rocket functioned properly during the launch.

Before the loss of Ofeq-6, Israel had reportedly planned to launch a next-generation spy satellite, the Ofeq-7, by 2008, and to launch the TechSAR, a synthetic aperture radar satellite, by 2006.In July 2005, Israel Aircraft Industries and Israel Military Industries conducted a successful test of a new launcher capable of putting satellites into orbit. The new launcher is intended to launch satellites that are heavier than the Ofeq spy satellites previously launched by the Shavit rocket. The launcher is reportedly 28 meters long and will be capable of placing a 700-kilogram satellite into low-earth orbit. Officials did not release any details from the test, so the specifics of the launcher improvements remain unclear.

Arrow Anti-ballistic Missile Defense System

Israel continues to dedicate substantial effort to improving its ability to defend against foreign missile attacks. The core of Israel’s missile defense, the Arrow program, is a joint U.S.-Israel effort begun in 1988 to develop a system for destroying ballistic missiles launched from other countries by intercepting them before they enter Israeli airspace. During the past several years, Israel and the United States have been implementing the Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP) in order to enhance the Arrow’s ability to defeat longer-range ballistic missile threats emerging in the Middle East.

As part of ASIP, Israel conducted the tenth test of the Arrow missile in January 2003 by firing four interceptor missiles at four simulated incoming rockets. The test, described as a success by Israel Defense Forces, was the fifth for the integrated Arrow Weapon System, which includes the “Green Pine” fire control radar, the “Yellow Citron” fire management system, the “Brown Nut” launch control center, and the Arrow launchers and missiles.

Israel conducted another successful test of the Arrow missile in December 2003 by intercepting a “Black Sparrow” missile. The test was the sixth of the complete Arrow Weapon System. In July 2004, the Arrow intercepted a live Scud missile in flight; the previous tests had been with simulated Scud missiles.

After this string of successful tests, the Arrow System Improvement Program suffered an apparent setback in August 2004. During a test in California, an Arrow missile identified but failed to intercept its target, which was characterized as an “unreal threat” representing “an extreme condition.” The target missile reportedly simulated an Iranian Shahab-3 or a Scud-D. Despite this failure, an Israeli defense official reportedly claimed that the Arrow was capable of intercepting a Shahab-3 missile.

In addition to the testing and development done under the Arrow System Improvement Program, Israel has also sought U.S. cooperation in producing the Arrow. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Boeing signed an agreement in February 2003 to manufacture part of the Arrow missile in the United States. Boeing will be responsible for producing at least 35 percent of Arrow missile components, while IAI will be responsible for integration and final assembly of the Arrow missile in Israel. In March 2004, IAI awarded Boeing a $78 million contract under which Boeing will assemble several sections of the Arrow II interceptor and will produce the canister that holds the interceptor in the launcher.

Other Missile Defense Systems

Israel is also collaborating with the United States in the development of another missile defense system, the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser (MTHEL). Built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the MTHEL underwent a successful test in May 2004 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. During the test, the MTHEL shot down a large-caliber rocket carrying a live warhead. According to Northrop Grumman, the MTHEL will be “the first tactical and mobile directed-energy weapon capable of shooting down rockets and other tactical targets in flight.”

After failed attempts to interest the United States in a joint development effort, Israel is reportedly developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can detect and destroy mobile ballistic missile launchers, including Scud-type launchers. The program is called the Sniper Sensor-to-Shooter System.

Israel as a Missile Supplier

In addition to enhancing its own missile capability in recent years, Israel has shown that it is willing to share missile technology with other countries.

In January 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce identified Israel, a non-member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), as a possible supplier of missile technology. The report did note, however, that Israel abides by MTCR Guidelines, which aim to limit the proliferation of missile delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction.

In recent years, Israel has become one of the main suppliers of arms to India. In June 2002, India’s defense secretary confirmed that India had acquired a Green Pine fire-control radar from Israel after several years of discussions. The Green Pine radar, which is part of the Arrow missile defense system, is a mobile phased-array radar capable of detecting and tracking incoming missiles from around 500 kilometers away. Also, in August 2004, India’s chief military scientist reportedly announced that India was holding talks with Israel about the possible joint production of a long-range missile.