TEL AVIV — Israel launched a new spy satellite into orbit Monday morning, in what was hailed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz as an “extraordinary achievement.”
“The Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries have successfully launched the ‘Ofek 16’ reconnaissance satellite into space,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Gantz said: “This is another extraordinary achievement for the defense establishment, for the defense industries as a whole, and for Israel Aerospace Industries in particular.”
“Technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the State of Israel,” he added.
Israel is just one of 13 countries to have reconnaissance satellite launching capabilities. In April, Iran finally launched a spy satellite into space after years of failed attempts.
Israel first launched a satellite, Ofek-1, in 1988.
The Ofek-16 is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities, the ministry said. It was sent into space using the “Shavit” launcher in the Palmachim air base in central Israel.
“Our network of satellites lets us watch the entire Middle East — and even a bit more than that,” said Shlomi Sudari, the head of IAI’s space program.
צילום יפה של שיגור לוויין הריגול אופק 16 מבסיס חיל האוויר בפלמחים ב4 בבוקר. תזמון שיגור הלוויין מן הסתם נקבע מזמן ובכל זאת הוא מקבל הקשר מעניין עם שלל הדיווחים הזרים מאיראן. לא יהיה חסר לו מה לצלם מהחלל שיעניין את ישראל במזרח התיכון. צילום ״קבוצת הקבינט הביטחוני״ pic.twitter.com/N3CIHfFnDm
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He added the satellite uses advanced Israeli-made technology.
While the satellite will no doubt be used mainly to monitor the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, Sudari said the launch was not related to reports Israel was behind a series of recent explosions in Iran.
“The timing was planned far in advance,” Sudari said.
Engineers from the Defense Ministry and IAI have started a series of pre-planned tests to determine the propriety and performance level of the satellite before it begins its full operational activities, the statement said.
Once the satellite is deemed fully operational, it will be operated by the IDF’s ‘9900’ Intelligence Unit.
The launch was “made possible by the people who have been investing in these systems and advancing breakthrough capabilities over the years. We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place,” Gantz said.