- Israel is developing simultaneously three advanced military
satellites for intelligence gathering purposes - Ofek 6, Ofek 7 and the
radar satellite TECHSAR. According to the head of the Defense Ministry's
Space Program, Professor Haim Eshed, the three satellites will be ready
- In a first interview with the Israeli press, Eshed, who
is also a brigadier general (res.), said that Ofek 7 and TECHSAR will be
more advanced than the current Ofek 5 by a full generation.
- By the end of the year, the communications satellite
Amos 2 is scheduled to be launched. A military communications satellite,
almost twice the size of Amos 2, is being planned.
- "Since the war in Iraq there has been a growing
understanding that there is no substitute for space and that it is one
of the important elements in the conduct of war," Eshed said. He also
warned, "We have reached the red line in budgetary cuts and further
slashes may harm the foundations of the Israeli space program."
- Eshed said the space program is based on two parallel
approaches: first, the development of satellites in a variety of wave lengths
enabling photography in the visible field, taking a picture in infra red,
hyper spectral photography of color photographs, three dimensional photographs
for mapping and radar photography; second, the development of the next
generation of satellite technology for micro (up to 100 kg) and nano (up
to 10 kg) sizes. As Eshed puts it, "Our aim is to develop abilities
for these satellites that today are only possible in much larger satellites."
- In parallel, scientists at the Armaments Development
Authority, Rafael, are working on technology that will enable the launching
of satellites from F-15 fighters. Such technology is already available
to the U.S. in firing anti-satellite missiles.
- "The air force would like to be able to fire a number
of satellites weighing 100 kilograms, that will cover the field of battle,"
Eshed says. He expects Israel will have thetechnology for such launches
within five years.
- Eshed describes the performance of the military satellite
Ofek 5, launched a year ago, as excellent. "With the exception of
the Americans, we are superior to all other countries in two fields of
satellite technology - resolution of photographs and picture quality."
- The head of the military space program says there are
500 people employed in the program, which he describes as "a joke"
compared to other countries involved in space. The lead contractor of projects
for the military is the space section of the Israel Aircraft Industries,
while the main sub-contractors are Elta, Rafael, Elop, Israel Military
Industries, Tadiran, Elisra and Specterlink.
- "Since the inception of the space program 20 years
ago, the state has invested more than $ 2 billion in the program. In other
words, a mere $80 million annually.. Most of the funding goes to the development
of parts, systems and sub-systems in cooperation and mergers that we do
not tend to publicize."
- Eshed says the main reason Israel invested in the space
program stems from strategic considerations and the fact that using satellites
to photograph does not contravene international law. "The first paper
I wrote as a research and development officer in Military Intelligence
was in 1978. The visit of Egypt's president Anwar Sadat was on the horizon,
and the question was raised regarding our ability to continue filming the
Sinai peninsula [without violating Egyptian airspace]."