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Israeli spy satellite up and running

Israel’s spy satellite launched this week transmitted its first images on Friday, the defence ministry said, as a newspaper said it may count India and Turkey among its clients.

Israel Aircraft Industries launched the Ofek 5 (Horizon, in Hebrew) satellite Tuesday to give it an eye on its hostile neighbours and lift the country into an exclusive club of states with satellite programmes.

“Everything worked perfectly and the first images were transmitted to the ground control center today,” a ministry spokesman told AFP. A newspaper report Friday said India and Turkey may count among potential customers of the satellite.

IAI is “interested in supplying photographs taken by the satellite to defence ministries of friendly countries on a commercial basis,” the Israeli daily Haaretz said. “Initial contacts on the matter have been conducted with India and Turkey, high on IAI’s list of potential customers,” it said, indicating the contracts could bring in tens of millions of dollars.

However, “the prospect of such deals depends largely on the position taken by the defence ministry” and the army, it said. The satellite, which circles the earth every 90 minutes, is providing pictures on regional troop movements, missiles launcher locations or the construction of nuclear sites, according to military experts.

The satellite is a major asset for Israel’s military intelligence services, especially in the event of a US attack against Iraq, which reportedly remains high on Washington’s agenda. During the 1991 Gulf War, 39 ground-to-ground Scud missiles were fired at Israel, killing two people and causing heavy damage.