Israel will be investing hundreds of millions in the development of small satellites that can be launched from an airplane, enabling the Israel Air Force and Intelligence Corps the ability to gather information on specific targets on short notice.
Senior sources in the air force said that they have been working for a year or more on pinning down the technical concept of micro-satellites and the missions they could carry out.
Currently, Israel is operating three intelligence satellites – Ofek 5, Ofek 7 and SAR-1. The state also purchases satellite footage from local and foreign companies.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems wishes to supply this new demand. Rafael is trying to develop micro-satellites weighing less than 120 kilograms â€“ that is many times smaller than ordinary satellites developed by Israel Aerospace Industries.
These new satellites will also be able to fly considerably lower than their predecessors, the company said.
Traditional satellites usually fly in altitudes of 600 to 700 kilometers above the earth, since lower altitudes would necessitate more engine use. The low weight of the micro-satellites will enable them to fly at as low as 300 kilometers, which will allow for lighter and less powerful surveillance gear.
The main cost reduction will come at the launching stage, however, since it would not necessitate buying or building expensive rockets.
Menachem Kadron, chief of Rafael’s space department, says that he believes that with sufficient sponsorship, the micro-satellites will be operable within five years.
Israel’s high technology expertise in the military armament fields is once again on display at this year’s 48’th Paris Air Show. This year, the main attractions appear to be the IAF’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s for short). UAV’s are being used more and more on both combat and reconnaissance missions as they can be controlled effectively from a base far away from where the mission is actually taking place, and without endangering pilots’ lives. Three of the more prominent exhibitors include Elbit Systems, Rafael, and Urban Aeronautics, who are showing off their new creations at the IAF’s new exhibition pavilion, which cost more than $ 1,500,000 to construct.
Something completely new this year is the unmanned rescue MULE, which has been designed to rescue wounded combat troops in battle zones. The MULE can carry approximately 317 kilograms over an 80-kilometer radius, at a top speed expected to be in the range of 100 knots, with a maximum operating altitude of 3,660 meters. It is also a vertical takeoff vehicle, enabling it to take off and land from a limited space.
Another unusual UAV is one called the Picador, which is an unmanned helicopter capable of carrying a 180 kg payload at a distance range of 200 kilometers. This craft can be used by both land and naval forces and can have armament mounted on it such as air to surface missiles, as well as surveillance equipment. The Picador is being offered by Aeronautics Defense Systems.
Other noteworthy items on display this year include the HAROP drone aircraft which can be used as a “kamikaze” aircraft to destroy enemy installations by hovering over them and then diving to crash into them while exploding a munitions payload. A relatively inexpensive UAV, the HAROP can be launched from various platforms and is designed to be especially effective in destroying enemy missile launching sites, such as those the Hezbollah has in southern Lebanon. It is also said to be an excellent weapon against enemy air defense systems. IAF spokesmen noted that the IAF has entered into a contract to supply these drones to the Indian Air Force.
Not featured at the show is a new missile interception device known as the “Iron Fist” which can be mounted on ground armored personnel carriers and will be used to intercept incoming missiles by means of a radar and passive optical system that detects incoming threats and destroys them within a fraction of a second using a combustible blast interceptor.
Israel learned a lot in the 2006 war with Hezbollah and this gained knowledge is being used to construct various new weapons systems and other equipment as noted. Using the old phrase of “necessity is the mother of invention” the IAF is continually upgrading is weaponry and developing new systems to maintain it’s qualitative edge over Israel’s adversaries.