Jericho is a general designation given to the Israeli ballistic missiles. The name is taken from the first development contract for the Jericho I signed between Israel and Dassault in 1963, with the codename as a reference to the Biblical city of Jericho. As is true for most Israeli unconventional weapons systems, exact details are highly classified though there is observed test data, public statements by government officials, and details in open literature especially about the Shavit satellite launch vehicle. The later Jericho family development is related to the Shavit and Shavit II space launch vehicles believed to be derivatives of the Jericho II IRBM and which preceded the development of the Jericho III ICBM. Additional insight into the Jericho program is given by the South African series of missiles which the RSA-3 are believed to be licensed copies of the Jericho II/Shavit and the RSA-4 used part of these systems in their stack with a heavy first stage, after the declaration and disarming of the South African nuclear program the RSA series missiles were offered commercially as satellite launch vehicles where the advertised specifications became part of the public knowledge.
Jericho I was first publicly identified as an operational short-range ballistic missile system in late 1971. It was 13.4 metres (44 ft) long, 0.8 m (2 ft 7 in) in diameter, weighing 6.5 tonnes (14,000 lb). It had a range of 500 km (310 mi) and a CEP of 1,000 m (3,300 ft), and it could carry a payload estimated at 400 kilograms (880 lb). It was intended to carry a nuclear warhead. However, due to Israel's ambiguity over its nuclear weapons program, the missile is classified as a ballistic missile. Initial development was in conjunction with France, Dassault provided various missile systems from 1963 and a type designated MD-620 was test fired in 1965. But French co-operation was halted by an arms embargo from January 1968, though 12 missiles had been delivered from France. Work was continued by IAI at the Beit Zachariah facility and the program cost almost $1 billion up to 1980, incorporating some US technology. Despite some initial problems with its guidance systems, it is believed that around 100 missiles of this type were produced.
In 1969 Israel agreed with the U.S. that Jericho missiles would not be used as "strategic missiles", with nuclear warheads, until at least 1972. The Jericho I is now considered obsolete and was taken out of service during the 1990s.
The Jericho II is a solid fuel, two-stage long-range ballistic missile system. There was a series of test launches into the Mediterranean from 1987 to 1992, the longest at around 1,300 km, mostly from the facility at Palmachim, south of Tel Aviv. Jane's reports that a test launch of 1,400 km is believed to have taken place from South Africa's Overberg Test Range in June 1989.
The Jericho II is 14.0 m long and 1.56 m wide, with a reported launch weight of 26,000 kg (although an alternative launch weight of 21,935 kg has been suggested). It has a 1,000 kg payload, capable of carrying a considerable amount of high explosives or a 1 Mt yield nuclear warhead. It uses a two-stage solid propellant engine with a separating warhead. The missile can be launched from a silo, a railroad flat truck, or a mobile vehicle. This gives it the ability to be hidden, moved quickly, or kept in a hardened silo, largely ensuring survival against any attack.
The Jericho II forms the basis of the three-stage, 23 ton Shavit NEXT satellite launcher, first launched in 1988 from Palmachim. From the performance of Shavit it has been estimated that as a ballistic missile it has a maximum range of about 7,800 km with a 500 kg payload.
South African RSA Series
The Jericho II/Shavit SLV was also license produced in the Republic of South Africa as the RSA series of space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles. The RSA-3 was produced by the Houwteq (a discontinued division of Denel) company at Grabouw, 30 km east of Cape Town. Test launches were made from Overberg Test Range near Bredasdorp, 200 km east of Cape Town. Rooi Els was where the engine test facilities were located. Development continued even after South African renunciation of its nuclear weapons for use as a commercial satellite launcher. Development actually reached its height in 1992 a year after nuclear renunciation with 50 - 70 companies involved, employing 1300 -1500 people from the public and private sector. A much heavier ICBM or space launch vehicle, the RSA-4, with a first stage in the Peacekeeper ICBM class but with Jericho-2/RSA-3 upper stage components was in development, the RSA-2 was a local copy of the Jericho II ballistic missile and the RSA-1 was a local copy of the Jericho II second stage for use as a mobile missile.
According to Al J Venter author of How South Africa built six atom bombs these missiles were incompatible with the available large South African nuclear warheads, he claims that the RSA series being designed for a 340 kg payload would suggest a warhead of some 200 kg, “well beyond SA's best efforts of the late 1980s.” Venter's analysis is that the RSA series was intended to display a credible delivery system combined with a separate nuclear test in a final diplomatic appeal to the world powers in an emergency even though they were never intended to be used in a weaponized system together.
It is estimated that the Jericho III is an ICBM which entered service in 2008. The Jericho III is believed to have a three-stage solid propellant and a payload of 1,000 to 1,300 kg. It is possible for the missile to be equipped with a single 750 kg nuclear warhead or two or three low yield MIRV warheads. It has an estimated launch weight of 30,000 kg and a length of 15.5 m with a width of 1.56 m. It may be similar to an upgraded and re-designed Shavit space launch vehicle, produced by Israel Aerospace Industries. It probably has longer first and second-stage motors. It is estimated by missilethreat.com that it has a range of 4,800 to 6,500 km (2,982 to 4,038 miles) km, though USAF missile proliferation survey for the Congressional Research Service puts possible maximum range at anywhere between 2000 km and 11,500 km.
According to an official report which was submitted to the American congress in 2004, it may be that with a payload of 1,000 kg the Jericho III gives Israel nuclear strike capabilities within the entire Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and almost all parts of North America, as well as within large parts of South America and North Oceania. Missile Threat reports: "The range of the Jericho 3 also provides an extremely high impact speed for nearby targets, enabling it to avoid any Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) defenses that may develop in the immediate region." On 17 January 2008 Israel test fired a multi-stage ballistic missile believed to be of the Jericho III type, reportedly capable of carrying "conventional or non conventional warheads." On 2 November 2011, Israel successfully test fired a missile believed to be an upgraded version of the Jericho III at Palmachim; the long trail of smoke was seen throughout central Israel. Israel's intercontinental ballistic missile launchers are believed to be buried so far underground that they would survive a nuclear attack.
After a further test in 2013 Alon Ben David published this opinion in an article in Aviation Week on the missile's range and throw weight "Reportedly, Israel's Jericho III intermediate-range ballistic missile is capable of carrying a 1,000-kg (2,204-lb.) warhead more than 5,000 km."
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