(photo credit: Israel Aerospace Industries)
In an effort to improve its intelligence capabilities, the Israeli Air Force
(IAF) is looking to develop technology that will automatically process, analyze
and catalog footage taken from the country’s spy satellites.
currently operates the Ofek 9, Ofek 7 and the Ofek 5 reconnaissance satellites,
as well as the advanced TecSar satellite, which is one of a handful in the world
that uses advanced radar technology instead of a camera enabling it to take
pictures at night, and in bad weather. The IDF also receives services from two
commercially- owned satellites, known as Eros A and Eros B.
the IAF trains soldiers to read and interpret satellite footage, which is used
in many cases to track military buildup in enemy countries – as well as the
transfer of weaponry and their location.
If, for example, a satellite
detects a missile launcher in the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon, it is then
filed into a bank of targets that could be used in a future conflict.
to the increase in reconnaissance satellites – as well as their contribution to
Israeli intelligence-gathering efforts, and the increase in productivity – the
IAF is hoping that with a new processing system it will be able to interpret
footage faster, and possibly even more accurately.
“Today, almost all of
the processing is done by soldiers and we want it to be done quicker with a new
system,” a senior officer explained.
The IAF has reached out to local
industries such as Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel
Aerospace Industries (IAI) for assistance in developing the new
Last year, the IAF introduced a new mission- planning system to
enable automated control over its seven spy satellites.
Multi-Satellite Planning System, as it is called, was developed by Elbit Systems
and is used by the Military Intelligence unit, which is responsible for
controlling Israel’s satellites and determining their reconnaissance and
The new program enabled soldiers to insert
missions into the system, which then chooses the closest satellite, and
depending on weather conditions, the one that is suitable for the specific
Israel operates two types of satellites in space: electro-optic
satellites, which use a high-resolution camera to take pictures of targets of
interest; and SAR satellites, which use radar systems to create high-resolution
images in all weather conditions, even through clouds and fog.