Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers
W. Seth Carus 1 : "Israeli Ballistic Missile Developments"
Not a great deal has been written about Israeli efforts to develop
ballistic missile capabilities. There are substantial, and often
unappreciated, gaps in publicly-available information about the Israeli
program. Thus, while Israel is generally believed to be the Middle East
country with the most capable ballistic missiles, reliable information
about its capabilities and concepts of operation is scanty. As a result,
much of what is said about the program is speculation, sometimes highly
informed but often dubious and unreliable. 2
Israel was the first country in the Third World to develop and deploy a
missile with a range of more than 300 km. It is also the first country to
develop and deploy a missile with a range of greater than 1,000 kilometers.
And, it is generally agreed that the Israelis possess missiles with
considerable accuracy. However, while Israel now admits to possession of a
ballistic missile system, it has still provided no details 3 . The
designation for the family of Israeli-produced missiles, Jericho,
reportedly is the name originally assigned it by the U.S. intelligence
Luz and Shavit II
The origins of the Israeli ballistic missile program date to several rocket
and missile programs in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. Israel began
development of guided missiles in 1954, and in 1958 Israel's military
research and development establishment, Rafael, tested a land attack
missile known as the Luz. This missile was proposed in ground-to-ground,
air-to-ground, and ship-to-ship versions. The ground-launched version had a
range of about 27 kilometers. The Artillery Corps fielded one battery of
the missiles, although it apparently was not viewed favorably by the army's
leadership. In addition, the ship-launched version entered formal
development, but the program was abandoned and replaced by the system that
came to be known as the Gabriel (developed by Israel Aircraft Industries
with Israel Military Industries producing the rocket motors). Rafael had
problems with the rocket motors, and never resolved the guidance problems.
In addition, Israel also tested a research sounding rocket known as the
Shavit II. This was a purely experimental system. There was no Shavit I:
the designation of the system was done for propaganda purposes to make the
Arabs wonder what happened to the first version of the system.
Israel's first true ballistic missile was the Jericho I. The first
published report of this system appeared in a September 1971 New York Times
article. According to the first report, the system was known as the Jordan
and had a 300 mile range. At that time, the system had been successfully
test fired. 6 A month later, the initial report was clarified to indicate
that Israel was producing a missile, known as the Jericho, at a rate of
three to six missiles per month. The missile was assessed to have a range
of 300 miles with a 1,000-1,500 pound warhead. According to this report,
the system was a single stage system. According to this report, the missile
had a simple guidance system, sufficiently accurate for a nuclear weapon
but lacking the precision needed for nuclear delivery. Each missile was
estimated to cost $1-1.5 million. 7
Additional details about the system appear in Seymour Hersh's expose of the
Israeli nuclear weapons program. According to his sources, the Jericho I
was code-named Project 700. He claims that the entire project was budgeted
for $860 million. While his account does not clarify what was included in
this budget, it probably covered development costs, production of missiles
and launchers, construction of production infrastructure at Israeli defense
companies, and the construction of the missile storage facility at
Zachariah. Hersh also claims that the program was the brain-child of Ernst
David Bergmann, who was (according to Hersh) the father of the Israeli
nuclear weapons program. 8
There are a few clues about progress on the system, although little is
reliably known. Again, Hersh provides some details. According to his
account, by December 1967, it appears that construction at the Zachariah
facility was well advanced, sufficiently to impress Yigal Allon, a former
Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, a leading member of the Labor
movement, and an influential figure in Israeli defense policy. 9
At the same time, he claims that there were development problems with the
missile itself. The first test of the missile, made in early 1967, revealed
guidance problems. 10 Matters were further complicated in 1968 by a French
decision to cancel the development program. 11 As a result, development
work had to be transferred to Israel. According to Hersh, the missiles
became operational in 1971. By 1973 the Israelis had two or three
operational Jericho Ipure launchers, along with an unknown number of mobile
launchers. This suggests that Hersh believed that there were static
launchers, perhaps silos, located at Zachariah. 12 Other sources claim that
the system continued to have guidance problems in 1973. 13
Recent reports suggest that the missiles were deployed during the 1973
Arab-Israeli War. In a 1997 presentation, Yuval Ne'eman, a leading figure
in Israel's scientific and national security community, stated that Israel
Defense Forces Chief of Staff David El'azar "decided to deploy
(surface-to-surface) Jericho missiles on 17 or 18 October 1973." According
to his account, Israel's Prime Minister, Golda Meir, saw "a need for some
degree of alert for the strategic missiles, whatever warheads they had."
After the Israelis discovered what were thought to be Soviet-manned Scud
missiles, presumably armed with nuclear warheads, "El'azar ordered Jericho
missile batteries to be deployed, and not to be camouflaged, on the
assumption that such a counterdeployment would be picked up by the Russian
satellites and the information relayed to al-Sadat. They were left to guess
the type of Israeli warheads being used." 14
The only known picture of what is believed to be the Jericho I is a
declassified DIA photograph. 15 It is generally believed that Israel has,
or had, about 50-100 of the Jericho I missiles.
Certain details of the Jericho I remain a mystery. There is considerable
variation in the range assessed. A publicly released CIA report from 1974
places the range at only 260 miles (or about 420 kilometers). 16 More
recent accounts give different numbers. In 1988, ACDA reported that the
missile had a range of 400 miles (or 650 kilometers). Other sources give
ranges of 500 to 750 kilometers. 17
In 1985, a press report appeared that claimed Israel was developing a new
generation Jericho with a range of 400 miles and significantly improved
accuracy. 18 Public information about the system began to grow when the
Israelis initiated a series of test launches into the Mediterranean.
According to one source, there were seven launches between May 1987 and
March 1992. Six were fired from the missile test facility at Palmichim, and
one was launched from an "operational site" in the Judean Hills. 19 These
missiles were tested to a maximum range of 800 miles (about 1300
In 1991, following the first Iraq's Al Husayn missile attacks on Israel,
the Bush Administration was worried that Israel might respond using ground
forces or air strikes. Such actions were viewed as politically dangerous to
the coalition then waging war against Iraq. In addition, administration
officials thought that the presence of Israeli forces in Iraq would
complicate military operations for the coalition. United States reportedly
encouraged Israel's leaders to limit any response to use of ballistic
missiles. The request was rejected out of hand by Moshe Arens, then
Israel's Defense Minister. According to Israeli sources, Israel the Jericho
II was not operational. As a result, Israel could not rely on the new
version of the Jericho, even if it had wanted to launch one. These accounts
report that Yitzhak Rabin, the previous Defense Minister, had refused to
provide funding to make the missile operational, believing that the money
could be better spent on other projects. According to the Israeli account,
a decision was made following the Gulf War to deploy the Jericho II, and by
1994 it was operational. 21
It is generally believed that the Jericho II has considerably greater
accuracy than the Jericho I. Many observers appear to believe that the
system is essentially a version of the Pershing II missile, and that it is
equipped with a radar terminal guidance system. Some observers appear to
believe that the Jericho II missiles are deployed at the same Zachariah
launch site originally developed for the Jericho I. 22
A considerable amount of information about Israel's missile capabilities
has been derived from studies of the performance of Israel's space launch
vehicle, the Shavit. It was first launched in September 1988. It is a three
stage system built by Israel Aircraft Industries, including two solid-fuel
stages produced by TAAS (once better known as Israeli military industries)
and a third stage produced by Rafael. 23 It is generally believed that the
first two stages are identical to the Jericho II. According to one estimate
prepared by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a ballistic missile
based on the Shavit's first two stages could carry a payload of 900
kilograms to a range of 3,000 miles (about 4,850 kilometers) or a payload
of 500 kilograms to almost 4,700 miles (just over 7,600 kilometers). 24
There are suggestions that there is an advanced version of the Jericho II,
sometimes called the Jericho IIb, the Jericho Follow-on, or the Jericho 3.
According to these sources, the missile could have a range of up to 2,800
kilometers with a payload of 1,000 kilograms. 25
The Israeli ballistic missile program has benefited from technology
acquired from foreign sources, most notably from France in the 1960s and
the United States in the 1970s. In addition, there are continuing
assertions that United States support for the Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic
Missile system is supporting the infrastructure needed for indigenous
development and production of ballistic missiles.
The French Connection
French assistance was critical in the early stages of the Israeli ballistic
missile program. According to press reports, in 1963 the Israeli government
negotiated a $100 million agreement with Dassault, the French aeronautics
company that produced Mirage fighters for the Israeli Air Force, to develop
a ballistic missile. This missile, which came to be known as the Jericho I,
was flight tested in 1967, and had a planned range of 300 miles (about 500
kilometers). According to the contract, the French were to build 25
missiles, although it is unclear whether these were intended for test
purposes or were operational systems. Before it could be completed,
however, the French government canceled the contract, and missile
development shifted to Israel. 26 After the cancellation of the project,
development and production shifted to Israel. 27
The U.S. Connection
The United States has played two main roles in the development of Israel's
ballistic missile capabilities. First, the Israelis are believed to have
obtained technology and materiel from the United States, primarily through
the activities of Richard Kelly Smyth. According to a review of his
activities, he provided the Israelis with rocket motor propellant, guidance
system components, and other paraphernalia. 28 Second, funding for the
Arrow tactical ballistic missile program is sometimes viewed as a subsidy
to Israelis missile and rocket programs.
The South African Connection
Israel is believed to have provided extensive technical assistance to the
South African ballistic missile program. 29 According to some sources, the
South African ballistic missile, allegedly code-named the Arniston by the
Central Intelligence Agency, was "an advanced derivative of Jericho-1." 30
Moreover, it is claimed that South Africa's Overberg missile test facility
was extremely similar in layout to the Israeli missile test facility at
Palmichim, suggesting that the Israelis were instrumental in the design and
construction of the South African site. 31
In addition, there are claims that Israel exploited facilities in South
Africa for its own ballistic missile development. Once source alleges that
Israel made three test launches of the Jericho II missile from the launch
facilities at Overberg. 32
The Iranian Connection
There is also an Iranian connection with the Israeli ballistic missile
program. In 1977 and 1978 the Iranians were negotiating weapons cooperation
agreements with the Israelis. Among the projects, it appears, were two
surface-to-surface weapons systems: an anti-ship cruise missile and a
version of the Jericho missile with a 750 kilogram warhead. 33 Press
accounts confused the two projects, and some reporters incorrectly asserted
that the two countries were developing a submarine-launched ballistic
1. Dr. Carus is with the Center for Counterproliferation Research at
National Defense University. Formerly with the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy, he is one of the country's foremost experts on missile
proliferation. Has testified before Congress regarding proliferation of
chemical and biological weapons and surface-to-surface missile
2. The best single account of Israeli involvement with ballistic missiles
is Gerald Steinberg, "Israel: Case Study for International Missile Trade
and Nonproliferation," pp. 235-253, in William C. Potter and Harlan W.
Jencks, The International Missile Bazaar: The New Suppliers' Network
(Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994).
3. Douglas Davis, "Vilna'i Says IDF Lacks Training in Conventional War With
Syria" Jerusalem Post, June 19, 1996, p. 2.
4. Leonard S. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions (Boulder, Colorado: Westview
Press, 1990), p. 162.
5. Abraham Rabinovich, The Boats of Cherbourg (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval
Institute Press, 1988), pp. 22-23, 29-33.
6. William Beecher, "Israel Building Prototype For a Jet Fighter-Bomber,"
New York Times, September 15, 1971, p. 3.
7. William Beecher, "Israel Believed Producing Missile of Atom Capability,"
New York Times, October 5, 1971, pp. 1, 15.
8. Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option (New York: Random House, 1991), p.
9. Hersh, The Samson Option, p. 173.
10. Hersh, The Samson Option, p. 173.
11. On the French component, see Pierre Langereux, "Dassault Lifts Veil
Over Jericho Missile. The Ground-To-Ground Tactical Missile Was the Base of
Israel's Ballistic Armament," Air and Cosmos/Aviation International
(French), December 6, 1997, p. 36, as translated by Foreign Broadcast
Information Service (FBIS) and found at their web site. All subsequent
references to FBIS came from the on-line version.
12. Hersh, The Samson Option, p. 215-216.
13. Insight Team of the London Sunday Times, The Yom Kippur War (Garden
City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1974), p. 283.
14. Amir Oren: "The Atom's Red Line," Ha'aretz, May 23, 1997, p. B5, as
translated from the Hebrew by.
15. Defense Intelligence Agency, Surface-to-Surface Missile Systems
Handbook--Free World, DST-1000H-283-89, July 1989, p. 20. This is a
declassified extract released by the Natural Resources Defense Council,
November 15, 1989.
16. As reported in a declassified NIE. See Leonard S. Spector, Nuclear
Ambitions (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1990), p. 362.
17. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, p. 162. Ramon Lopez, "Israel in second
secret test of Jericho IRBM," Jane's Defence Weekly, November 19, 1988 p.
18. "Israel Said to Deploy Improved Jericho Missile," Aerospace Daily, May
1, 1985, p. 5, and "Israel's Jericho IRBM completes long range test,"
International Defense Review, July 1987, p. 857.
19. William Burrows and Robert Windrem, Critical Mass (New York: Simon and
Shuster, 1994), p. 455.
20. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, p. 162.
21. Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv, Friends In Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel
Alliance (New York: Hyperion, 1994), p. 389, and "Israeli Ability to Strike
Iraq Examined," Ha'aretz, February 5, 1998 (internet edition), as
translated by FBIS.
22. Harold Hough, "Could Israel's Nuclear Assets Survive a First Strike?,"
Jane's Intelligence Review, September 1997, pp. 407-410.
23. Gerald M. Steinberg, Dual Use Aspects of Commercial High-Resolution
Imaging Satellites, BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Bar Ilan University,
February 1998, p. 16.
24. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, p. 163.
25. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, p. 162, and Steinberg, Dual Use Aspects of
Commercial High-Resolution Imaging Satellites, p. 16.
26. Hersh, The Samson Option, pp. 120, 143.
27. Dassault recently revealed additional details of the MD-620. See Pierre
Langereux, "Dassault Lifts Veil Over Jericho Missile. The Ground-To-Ground
Tactical Missile Was the Base of Israel's Ballistic Armament," Air and
Cosmos/Aviation International (French), December 6, 1997, p. 36, as
translated by FBIS.
28. Burrows and Windrem, Critical Mass, pp. 459-466.
29. Washington Post, October 27, 1991, pp. A1, A30.
30. Burrows and Windrem, Critical Mass, p. 448.
31. Burrows and Windrem, Critical Mass, p. 448.
32. Burrows and Windrem, Critical Mass, p. 455.
33. W. Seth Carus, Cruise Missile Proliferation in the 1990s (Westport,
Connecticut: Praeger, 1992), pp. 148-149.
34. Elaine Sciolino, "Documents Detail Israeli Missile Deal With the Shah,"
New York Times, April 1, 1986, p. A17. A close reading of the documents
indicates that there were in fact two programs, not one as asserted by
Sciolino. The Flower was an antiship cruise missile, although it is usually
identified as a ballistic missile project.