Israel carried out a missile test on Thursday, January 18, 2008. In contrast to being illusive on providing information on such tests, Israel’s Defense Ministry confirmed the launch explaining it was a successful test of a new rocket propulsion system coupled with a test missile. MOD sources added that following the test, the system could now be integrated with different missiles. Various news sources indicated the missile being tested was the Jericho III, capable of attacking ground targets at a range beyond 4,000 km.
According to foreign sources Israel has an inventory of Jericho II ballistic missiles, with a range of 1,500 km, equipped with unconventional warheads. Foreign sources also reported that in recent years, the country tested the three-stage Jericho III weapon, capable of reaching targets at a range of 4,500 km, capable of delivering both conventional and unconventional payloads, including multiple warheads, weighing 750 – 1,300 kg.
The recent test confirmed the performance of the new solid-rocket propulsion system, believed to be a three-stage system. It also validated the performance of the Jericho weapon system, which was last tested in 2001. Foreign news media claimed Israel conducted extensive test launches of Jericho missiles in Algeria (under a secret cooperation with France, which lasted throughout the 1960s). After the French embargo Israel reestablished the test program under its cooperation with South Africa and used a remote facility Africa to test its missiles. However, since the close strategic cooperation with Pretoria ended, missile tests moved back to Israel and are conducted from Palmachim test center near Tel Aviv, where every test is clearly visible over the country’s largest metropolis.
Israel has used the Shavit satellite launcher, claimed to be a three-stage derivative of the Jericho II missile, to launch satellites of the Ofeq series. Two satellites were lost as they failed to enter orbit, while five others were deployed successfully, some remaining operational in orbit for more than five years. In the past Israel considered the development of the Next / LK-1 satellite launchers, capable of deploying payloads of up to 350 kg into orbits more than twice higher than the original Shavit.