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By ARIE EGOZI
According to foreign sources, Israel has been further developing its ballistic missiles. The evidence of the recent effort could have been seen in central Israel – the Defense Ministry said on May 29th that it conducted an experimental test of its rocket propulsion system from Palmachim base.
Every time Israel is further developing its ballistic missile capability or its satellite launcher one, these are the words that are used by the official spokespersons.
Rocket propulsion systems are designed to launch large systems such as satellites, ballistic missiles and large ground to air missiles.
The launching, conducted in the early morning hours, was planned in advance and carried out as planned. There was no comment on whether or not the test was successful nor what system was tested but some speculated that it may be the surface-to-surface Jericho III, an intercontinental ballistic missile which according to foreign reports can carry a nuclear warhead.
In 2013, foreign media outlets reported that the Defense Ministry carried out a test launch of a rocket propulsion system as part of the development of the Jericho ballistic missile, speculating that the missile had a range of 4,000km. Israel has since been continuously trying to improve the system, both in terms of range and accuracy and it is now reported to have a range of over 10,000 km.
The Jericho III is the first Israeli Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It is a further development of the Jericho I Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) and Jericho II Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM). It is also believed to share technology with the Shavit space launch vehicle.
According to foreign publications, the Jericho III is known to be 15.5 m in length and 1.56 m in diameter and is estimated to weigh 30,000 kg. While the Jericho I and Jericho II are both uniformly cylindrical in shape, the Jericho III’s first and second stages are very different in diameter. Both the first and second stage have small fins for stabilization, and possibly for maneuvering purposes.
According to foreign publications, the system employs inertial guidance, while the final stage with the warhead is radar-guided. The warhead is not believed to be particularly accurate compared to those of the ICBMs used by the superpowers, with an estimated CEP of 1,000 m.
The range of the Jericho III is substantial, encompassing the entirety of the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and most of North America, South
America, and North Oceania.
As such, the Jericho III enables the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to launch a ballistic missile to almost any location on Earth. At relatively closer-range targets, the reentry velocity is such that the Jericho III is believed to be largely immune to all operational missile defense systems.
According to foreign publications and different press reports, the warhead of this missile is estimated to weigh 1,000 kg, and conventional, biological, chemical, and nuclear warheads are believed to exist, though the full range of warhead options is impossible to confirm due to the secretive nature of the IDF missile command.
According to foreign publications, the Jericho III is known to be silo-based, though some sources claim that it may have a road-mobile version. The land-based silos are claimed to be virtually invulnerable to nuclear attack.
According to foreign sources, although it entered service in 2008, the Jericho III was not declared operational until 2011. The first test launch is believed to have occurred in January 2008, with a motor test in the following February. Several additional test launches have been reported, including one in July of 2013.
In 2011 an upgraded version of the Jericho III was tested. The success rate of the Jericho III in both launching and guidance is unknown.
According to foreign sources, it is likely that the development costs associated with this missile have precluded the IDF from fielding as many as with the preceding Jericho-series missiles.
So the test in the end of May could have been related to a further upgrade of the Israeli ballistic missiles arsenal. We can only guess.