Israeli has enhanced its capacity for spying on its neighbours after successfully launching a new version of its Ofek spy satellite today. The launch, planned months in advance, was overseen by Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, whose presence is seen as an indication that he will be staying in office despite his dismissal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.
The Ofek-13 satellite was manufactured by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. It is the latest in a series of locally produced satellites, the first of which was blasted into orbit in 1988. The satellite was launched on a Shavit missile over the Mediterranean Sea as a precaution against sensitive technology falling into the hands of hostile Middle East neighbours should there be a malfunction.
Gallant hailed the launch as “yet another important example of the Israeli defence establishment’s groundbreaking innovation.” He said that the new satellite will enhance around-the-clock regional monitoring as the country braces for a possible showdown with Iran.
“Israel has already proved its diverse space capabilities many times and is one of very few countries to possess such capabilities,” added the minister, “capabilities that we continue to develop and strengthen.”
Israel is one of a small number of countries in the world that operate reconnaissance satellites, giving it advanced intelligence-gathering capabilities. As of 2020, that list included Iran, which has also successfully launched a spy satellite into orbit.
The launch in Israel comes a couple of weeks after Saudi and Iran renewed relations following Chinese mediation. The potential for peace between the regional rivals is seen by Israel as a major threat to its security. As part of the deal, China agreed to share its large spy satellites with Riyadh and Tehran.