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Israel has achieved the ability to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Israeli officials and experts said the nation’s ICBM capability was demonstrated by its launch in May of the Ofeq-5 satellite into space orbit. The satellite was carried by a Shavit-class booster.
The Shavit booster was launched westward against the earth’s orbit, officials said. The direction was decided to prevent the Ofeq from falling into enemy hands if it failed in an eastward launch.
“The minute Israel can launch a satellite into orbit around the earth to an altitude of hundreds of kilometers, it established the capability to launch, by means of a missile, a payload to any location on earth,” Moshe Gelman, a leading Israeli space expert at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, said on Wednesday. “We are talking about the laws of physics.”
Gelman said the path of a satellite booster is the same as that of a ballistic missile. The difference is the target – with a booster requiring greater energy to ensure that it does not fall to earth with the satellite.
In 1998, Israel failed to place its Ofeq-4 satellite into orbit. The failure was attributed to the Shavit launcher.
Officials said the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries, which builds the Shavit, introduced changes in the booster for the latest launch. They said the changes were said to have focused on the rocket engines meant for the first two stages of the Shavit. The engines are produced by the state-owned Israel Military Industries.
Israel’s ICBM capabilities were first said to have been demonstrated in 1988 when the Ofeq-1 was shot into orbit. Ofeq-1 had a payload of about 180 kilograms (400 pounds). The Ofek 5 weighs about 300 kilograms (660 pounds).
The Shavit is said to be a derivative of the Jericho surface-to-surface missile. The Jericho is believed to have been last tested in the Mediterranean two years ago.
U.S. officials have determined that the Shavit has a range of 7,200 kilometers (4,464 miles), the Israeli Ha’aretz daily said. The newspaper quoted Professor Steve Fetter, a physicist at the University of Maryland, that the Shavit could deliver a 775 kilogram warhead a distance of 4,000 kilometers (2,480 miles).
Israel’s Jericho missile silo is said to be located outside Bet Shemesh, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) southwest of Jerusalem. The London-based Foreign Report asserted that a six-man Palestinian insurgency cell captured on Monday had attempted to blow up the missile facility.
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