On September 19, 1988, Israel launched its first artificial satellite, Ofek 1, into orbit using its national launcher Shavit, making it a space power. Other satellites in the OFEC (“Horizon”) series were launched in the following years. The goal is to acquire space technology, then reinvest in civil applications (eros), but above all military (OFEC).
A complex geopolitics
Since its independence in 1948, Israel has faced an increasingly threatening geopolitical situation: considering that Palestine must belong to the Arabs, the border states have, directly or indirectly, waged several wars (1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973). Won. The Israelis have always underlined the uncertain future of the Jewish state. Towards the end of 1979, a new enemy was added to the region, Iran, which did not hesitate to support the Palestinian cause and refused to recognize the state of Israel. For the latter, its future and its security depend on the essential skills of intelligence, as evidenced by the events of the Gulf War. In fact, in January and February 1991, Israel was hit by a Scud-type missile bombing from Iraq that killed more than 70 civilians and destroyed scores more. Complaining that he had not received enough information from his American allies, Defense Minister Moshe Arens then decided to speed up the OFEC program.
Towards independent military and civilian spatial information
On April 5, 1995, with the launch of Ofek 3, the Israelis acquired their first military intelligence satellite. With a total weight of 225 kg, it is placed in an inverted elliptical orbit (366 km x 694 km). It is equipped with an optical instrument that provides images with a resolution of about one meter. This allows Israel to access a limited club of states, including imaging satellites, and, above all, cannot rely on foreign sources, especially Americans. Ofeq 3 does not naturally leave some neighboring states (Iran, Syria, Iraq, etc.) indifferent that it will regularly pass over their territory.
In order to ensure the continuity of the military intelligence service, OFEC followed on 4 January 1998, but it did not reach its orbit. Note that from their offspring, the Israelis also eros (Earth Resource Satellite Observation), A commercial civilian Earth observation satellite, the first of which was launched on December 5, 2000 (by a Russian Start 1 rocket).
Using a Chevitt deployed from Palmachim Airbase, the Israelis launched OFEC 5 on May 28, 2002, the first of an advanced generation of reconnaissance satellites. It is also placed in an elliptical orbit of 369 km perimeter, at 771 km apogee with a tendency of 143.5. 2.3 m high, 1.2 m in diameter and total weight about 300 kg, like the predecessors of Ofeq 5, produced by its MBT division Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). For optical systems, it is designed by L-Op (Electro-optic industries), A subsidiary of Elbit systemAn Israeli defense company.
Thanks to OFEC 5, the space intelligence system has been strengthened and enriched with the deployment of OFEC 7 and 9, launched in 2007 and June 2010, respectively. Thus Israel has a way to ensure better revision of the sites monitored at all times. , Optimized optical system (probably less than 80 cm from the last 70 cm for the last satellite).
Keep the edges
In addition to optical imaging satellites, Israelis are also acquiring radar imaging satellites (OFEC 8 in 2008, OFEC 10 in 2014), capable of clearing clouds and observing at night.
Thus, the success of the Ofek Satellite is a result of the political and military will to strengthen the Israeli industrial capability on the one hand, and to ensure the advancement of state-of-the-art technology on the other. Threats to Middle Eastern states. The question is even more acute because Iran has also been acquiring space launch and observation resources for several years.
– A simple job : Spy satellite. World military space historyJack Villain, Vuibart, 2009
– An article : “Spy satellite spread”, Christian Lordier, Air and Cosmos, June 7, 2002
– A contact : “OFEC 5 Launch”Oiknine Claude and Bergman David, in Acta astronautica, Flight. 56, January 2005.
Philippe Varnoteaux is a doctor of history, an expert on the beginnings of space exploration in France, and the author of several reference works.