analysisIsrael News

Israel’s missile propulsion test—part of arms race with Iran

While Israeli defense officials have not specified the nature of the propulsion system tested on June 24, the launch serves as a clear message to both allies and adversaries of Israel’s advanced capabilities.

The launch of the “Okef 13” satellite from the Palmachim Airbase in central Israel on March 29, 2023. Credit: Israeli Ministry of Defense.
The launch of the “Okef 13” satellite from the Palmachim Airbase in central Israel on March 29, 2023. Credit: Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

On June 24, Israel conducted a highly significant, pre-scheduled test of a missile propulsion system, marking an important development in its capabilities. 

The test, which according to international reports was conducted at the Palmahim Air Base south of Tel Aviv, showcased Israel’s commitment to enhancing its missile technology, and Iran could well have been the target audience.

A Russian pro-Kremlin Telegram channel claimed a few days after the test that the missile launched from Palmahim fell in the Mediterranean Sea some 1,050-1,120 miles east of Israel’s coast. The same report also claimed that there were maritime traffic restrictions in place east of Malta on the relevant date.

Engineering sources from abroad told JNS that the test may have involved the launch of a two-stage rocket, a technology Israel has maintained and periodically tested for over three decades.

Such tests are part of a routine cycle, occurring approximately every two to three years, as part of maintaining the operational readiness and reliability of Israel’s defense systems. The June 24 test appears to have been a continuation of this practice.

Despite the routine nature of these tests, however, each launch carries significant weight, both in terms of internal validation and external signaling. Such tests not only verify the functionality of Israel’s systems but also reinforce its strategic deterrence posture.

The propulsion system tested on June 24 is reportedly part of Israel’s long-range missile program, potentially augmenting its ability to deploy payloads that could, according to international media reports, be unconventional. 

According to various international media reports, Israel maintains an arsenal of ground-launched Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launch cruise missiles and long-range jet-launched missiles. 

This triad is reportedly crucial for Israel’s defense strategy, providing a flexible response to potential severe threats.

While the test occurred amid heightened tensions with Iran and its regional terror axis, this is likely coincidental, and the Israeli Defense Ministry’s description of the trial as pre-scheduled is credible. 

Nevertheless, while Israeli defense officials have not specified the nature of the propulsion system, its successful test serves as a clear message to both allies and adversaries of Israel’s advanced capabilities.

Iran, for its part, continues to develop its ballistic and cruise missile program and nuclear program, which is making alarming progress according to the latest information provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency. On June 29, Reuters reported, citing IAEA data, that Iran had installed advanced uranium-enriching cascades at its Fordow uranium site, of the IR-6 type. These cascades enable faster, higher enrichment levels of uranium. 

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, as of February this year, Iran held a stockpile of 121.5 kilograms (268 pounds) of 60%-enriched uranium, and had enough raw material to make seven nuclear weapons within a month, although Iran is not known to have begun producing an actual nuclear warhead, a separate process. 

Iran is believed to have been in possession of 712.2 kilograms (1570 pounds) of 20%-enriched uranium by February of this year. It is also building new underground facilities, one next to Natanz and one at Fordow, the latter by digging into a mountain near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom. 

On April 14, Iran fired over 300 missiles and drones directly Israel, the vast majority of which were intercepted by the air defense systems and jets of Israel, the United States and other friendly militaries. 

Israel’s recent missile test was likely closely monitored in Iran, which has a growing number of spy satellites (albeit with low-quality cameras at this stage). The Middle Eastern arms race is set to continue at full speed ahead. 

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates