Amid crisis, Israel successfully launches Ofek-13, its latest spy satellite

After testing, the Ministry of Defense will deliver it to the Israel Defense Forces' 9900 Intelligence Unit for operational use.
Jijo Malayil
Ofek-13 lifting off

After a hiatus of three years, Israel has successfully launched a spy satellite to enhance its military intelligence capabilities. Ofek-13 satellite was placed in orbit on March 29 from a test site in central Israel using a Shavit launcher. 

According to Israeli authorities, the satellite has successfully entered its designated orbit, has begun transmitting data, and the technicians have completed an initial series of inspections in accordance with the original launch plans.

However, the Israel Ministry of Defence (IMoD) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) engineers will do more tests before it becomes fully operational. "Within the coming weeks, we will complete technical tests and receive the first pictures before delivering the satellite for operational use by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)," said Avi Berger, Head of the IMOD’s Space and Satellite Administration, in a media release

The latest iteration in the Ofek series was designed and developed on the basis of Israel's past experience of designing various reconnaissance satellites, the first of which launched in 1988. The predecessor, Ofek-16, was launched in July 2020. 

The project will be handed over to Unit 9900 after testing

Once the satellite clears the testing process, the Ministry of Defense will deliver it to the IDF's 9900 Intelligence Unit for operational use. Unit 9900 is an Israeli intelligence unit primarily responsible for collecting military intelligence from aerial and satellite imagery. 

Ofek-13 is a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite that uses a technique for producing fine-resolution images from a resolution-limited radar system. Such a device bounces a microwave radar signal off the Earth's surface to detect physical properties.

According to the team, Ofek 13’ is the most advanced of its kind, with unique radar observation capabilities, and will enable intelligence collection in any weather and conditions of visibility, thus enhancing strategic intelligence. "A SAR satellite will allow, among other things, day and nighttime imaging capabilities and will drastically improve Israel’s intelligence capabilities from space for years to come," said Avi. 

Increased surveillance in the wake of rising geopolitical tensions

The build-up of military capacities and intelligence comes in the backdrop of a hostile environment in the middle east with the rising influence of Iran perceived as a threat by Israel. The launch of the satellite comes just a few weeks after Iran and Saudi Arabia announced a decision to restore their diplomatic relationship. 

According to a report by Jewish News Syndicate, the country has also outlined plans to create a space defense unit called the “Space Administration."

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