Israel beefing up its capabilities vis-a-vis Iran

Published 23 January 2008

In the past five days Israel carried out a successful test-launch of a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to a distance of 2,500 km; two days ago, an Indian rocket placed a sophisticated Israeli spy satellite in the sky; new satellite can take pictures of small targets under cloudy and foggy conditions and carry out day and night and all weather imaging

The arms race in the Middle East is heating up, with Israel sending clear messages to Iran that the latter’s nuclear weapons program is of great concern. Two examples:

* Two days ago India successfully placed an Israeli spy satellite in the polar orbit after a textbook launch carried out under a veil of secrecy from the Sriharikota space station. The homegrown Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C10) carrying the advanced 300 kg satellite TECSAR, or Polaris as it is sometimes called, lifted off flawlessly from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 09:15 as scheduled, a statement by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said here. The commercial satellite, which has a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), an advanced radar system, was placed in its intended orbit in 19 minutes 45 seconds after a perfect lift-off, ISRO said.

The Hindu reports that the satellite is Israel’s most advanced satellite and the radar system allows it to view much more than its existing Ofek satellites that use cameras. It can take pictures of small targets under cloudy and foggy conditions and carry out day and night and all weather imaging. The first pictures are expected to be beamed in two weeks. It is expected to give a boost to Israel’s intelligence gathering capabilities and help keep an eye on its hostile neighbours. The satellite was placed its intended orbit with a Perigee (nearest point to earth) of 450 km and Apogee (farthest point to earth) of 580 km, the ISRO statement said. “The TECSAR is the first satellite of its kind developed in Israel, and ranks among the world’s most advanced space system,” according to a statement by Israel Airospace Industries (IAI).

The launch of the satellite was executed under a commercial contract between Israel Aerospace Industries (AIA) and Antrix Corporation, the release said. The decision by Israel to take India’s help was taken three years back.

TECSAR is a Synthetic Aperture Radar technology satellite, the design, development, and fabrication of which were led by MBT Space, a division of the IAI with participation of other high-tech industries such as ELTA, Tadiran, Spectralink, and Rafael. This is the second time that a “core alone” PSLV configuration had put a foreign satellite into orbit, meaning only the main PSLV vehicle was used for the TECSAR launch. The additional strap-on engines or booster motors tot ake up more than 600 kg payloads of satellites were not used. In April 2007, an Italian satellite Agile was put into orbit in such a configuration.

The launch of the radar-imaging, remote-sensing satellite, was shrouded in secrecy. The launch was originally scheduled in September 2007 though no date was specified.

* We also note that five days ago, Israel lcarried out a successful launch of a nuclear-capable missile. It was launched from the top-secret Palmachim air base south of Tel Aviv, home to a number of highly sensitive Israeli weapon systems including the Arrow anti-missile defense battery.