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Monday, January 21, 2008

Israel - India launch satellite: What did Israel give the US?

After months of delays an innovative Israeli spy satellite was launched this morning from India. The satellite's most important feature is that it allows clear pictures to be taken and transmitted back under all weather conditions, making it ideal to spy on Iran.
Weighing just under 300 kilograms, the TecSar was developed by the IAI's Space Division MBT and has the ability to create images of objects on Earth day and night, even in cloudy weather conditions - a capability not available in Israel's Ofek satellite series.

The TecSar is reportedly capable of imaging with a resolution of up to 10 centimetres.

The Ofek 7 is a camera-based satellite, while TecSar is capable of creating high-resolution images using synthetic aperture radar, an advanced radar technology.

Once in space, officials said, the TecSar would be by far the most advanced Israeli satellite. In addition to the Ofek 7, Eros B and the Amos 1 and 2 (both communication satellites), Israel operates the Ofek 5 spy satellite, successfully launched in May 2002. IAI plans to launch the Amos 3 in the coming months.

The decision to launch the missile from India was reached three years ago during a visit there by then-Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron. It is part of growing Indian-Israeli cooperation, which is scheduled to eventually lead to the launching of two more satellites.

The launch of the TecSar was the first launch of an Israeli satellite aboard an Indian missile.
The satellite was launched at 5:45 AM GMT, which means it was launched in the daytime and that no effort was made to hide the launch.

Citing Indian reports carried in the Jerusalem Post, I reported six weeks ago that the United States had held up the launch of the satellite.
In an article published in Monday's Daily News and Analysis, the Indian paper quoted sources who said US government pressure was responsible for calling off the launch of the satellite, which already had been mounted on the space-bound missile launcher.

The paper hinted that the reason for the American pressure was to prevent India from obtaining powerful military platforms. Earlier this year, the paper said, the US curtailed Indian plans to develop missiles with a 5,000-kilometer range and advised it to only manufacture missiles with a range of 800 km.
Although some of the Indian media denied it at the time, nothing happened here to dispel the notion that the US was behind the cancellation. If so, then we can (and maybe should) speculate over what has happened in the last six weeks that has caused the Americans to allow the launch to go ahead. I have three possible explanations, although the most likely explanation is probably some combination of the three I am about to suggest:

1. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto convinced the US that India really does need the satellite for security.

2. The US gave Israel a quid pro quo for the manner in which President Bush's visit here came off.

3. Israel committed to the US that it would not attack Iran without American permission.

I'm betting on some combination of 1 and 3.


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