Spy satellites, Mossad activities awarded Defense Prize

The outstanding projects and activities contributed to the security of Israel and its qualitative edge on the battlefield.

THE OFEK 16 satellite is shot into space from a site in center of the country on Monday. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
THE OFEK 16 satellite is shot into space from a site in center of the country on Monday.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

The country’s spy satellites and two other classified projects have been awarded the Israel Defense Prize, the country’s top security prize, the Defense Ministry announced on Monday.

The awards were for outstanding projects and activities that have contributed to the security of the State of Israel and to its qualitative edge on the battlefield, both in terms of technology and operations.

With concern continuing over Iran’s growing hostility in the region, Israel, with its army of satellites, keeps a close eye on the Islamic Republic. The latest satellite – Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems’ Ofek 16 – was launched in July 2020 in a joint operation of the Defense Ministry’s Space Department and IAI.

The satellite is operated by the IDF’s 9900 Unit in the Military Intelligence Directorate.

Like other reconnaissance satellites launched by Israel since its satellite program began in 1988, Ofek 16 is used to monitor threats facing the country. The reconnaissance satellite carries Elbit’s electro-optic, high-resolution camera, which can photograph 15 sq. km. (six sq. miles) with each shot at a resolution of 50 cm. (20 inches) from an altitude of 600 km. (373 miles).

Satellite images of Iranian nuclear facility (file) (credit: REUTERS)Satellite images of Iranian nuclear facility (file) (credit: REUTERS)

There are only 12 other countries with satellite-launching capabilities like that of the Israel Air Force. The satellite industry is a key component of the Jewish state’s strategic military capabilities. Though the exact number of Israeli satellites in orbit remains classified, they are reported to number in the double digits.

And while most satellites have a lifetime of several operational years before they go out of service, satellites built by IAI – like the Ofek 5 that was launched in 2002 – continue to operate, far longer than the design specifications said it would.

“The satellites serve the defense establishment 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and provide quality and reliable intelligence in real-time,” the Defense Ministry said.

“The satellites serve the defense establishment 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and provide quality and reliable intelligence in real-time.”

Defense Ministry

Classified projects

The other two projects that won the prize remain largely classified and involve security organizations. One was led by the 8200 Unit in Military Intelligence, Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Defense Ministry’s director of security of the defense establishment.

The project, which lasted about a decade, saw the intelligence agencies “work in a combined effort, in a variety of bold and innovative ways while facing enormous technological challenges,” the ministry said. It added that the successes have been a “main cornerstone for a wide range of activities that have directly contributed, many times, to the security of the State of Israel.”

Another project that won the prize was of the Mossad, Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT) and defense industries that was aimed at maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge in the face of strategic threats.

“The Israel Defense Prize reflects more than anything the integration of the arms of all security bodies. We see this on the battlefield every day, when the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad and Israel Police work together.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz

“The Israel Defense Prize reflects more than anything the integration of the arms of all security bodies. We see this on the battlefield every day, when the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad and Israel Police work together,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said congratulating the winners, adding that the breakthrough defense projects “provide us with security and technological superiority.”

“We will continue to push Israeli developments forward and strengthen Israel’s security,” he said.

The winners will be honored at an event at the President’s Residence on June 14 attended by Gantz, President Isaac Herzog, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel.

The award has been presented each year for more than 60 years to people and projects based on technological achievements that have made a significant contribution to the country’s security and provide unique operational responses. It is named after Elijah Golomb, the commander of Israel’s pre-state Hagana militia.