Beit Zachariah / Zekharyeh
Sedot Mikha / Sdot Micha
The Israeli Air Force reportedly has three squadrons [150, 199 and 248 squadrons] equipped with Jericho nuclear-tipped missiles at the Sedot Mikha [Sdot Micha] base, 45 km south of Tel-Aviv. The Sedot Mikha Jericho IRBM base is located near the town of Zekharyah, east of Ashkelon and south east of Tel Nof AB, and south of the Sorek River between Kiriat-Gat and Beit-Shemesh.
Some western publications incorrectly use the term Sedof Mikha for this facility. Other nomenclature associated with this facility includes Hirbat Zachariah, Kfar Zekharya, Zachariah, and Zekharyeh.
It is reported that classified satellite imagery discloses about 100 missile emplacements, evenly divided between the Jericho-1 and Jericho-2 missiles. The Jericho-1 missile, developed in the late 1960s and deployed in facilities at Sedot Mikha, themselves constructed beginning in 1967, was believed to have achieved a range of over 450 kilometers. An advanced version, the Jericho II, with a range of at least 1,500 kilometers, was reported to have been test-flown in the late 1980s. As many as 50 Jericho-2 missiles may be based at facilities which were built in the 1980s. The base is built in a limestone region with numerous caves and small hills which have been hollowed out to house the Jericho 2 and its TELs, which are rolled out for firing. In December 1990, just before the Gulf War, Jericho-2 missiles were brought to readiness for firing, and Israel test-fired a Jericho from the Sedot Mikha facility.
Ikonos imagery acquired in the Spring of 2002, indicates that facilities previously associated with Israel's Intermediate Range Jericho Missile Base, are likely munitions storage facilities, supporting the Tel Nof air base, and probably serve as a central ammunition depot for Israel.
After reviewing the new imagery, and comparing it to other sources, we estimate the number of hardened missile shelters capable of supporting operational IRBM's to be between 23 and 50 shelters. It is possible that two structures that appear to be multiple-drive-through garrages could support an additional 10-20 IRBM TELs.
This new view is supported by comparing declassified Corona satellite imagery, with a Russian 1:50,000 scale map published in 1987, and NIMA 10-meter CIB (Controlled Image Base) with the new Ikonos imagery. A trapezoid shaped munitions storage area once thought to be the Jericho II missile base, has the visual signature associated with conventional munitions storage.
The C-shaped earth-berms protecting the above-ground storage buildings are too narrow to maneuver road-mobile IRBM Transporter-Erector-Launchers (TELs) in and out with ease. Other munitions storage facilities near the village of Tirosh and just south of Highway 3, predate the IOC of the original Jericho Squadron. The driveways are too narrow to support missile tranporters or transloaders. Futhermore the trapezoid-shaped storage area post-dates the initial Jericho garrison 4 kilometers to the east, by at least five to ten years, and pre-dates the IOC of the Jericho II by three to four years.
The new satellite imagery fails to shed light on the question of which missiles are deployed at Zakaria. There are three possibilities:
1. The Jericho I IRBM was removed from operational service with the introduction of the longer range Jericho II. Under this scenario, the base at Zakaria was converted to Jericho II, and the Jericho I was retired. While there is no proof of this, one reason to justify this possibility is the high cost associated with refurbishing and extending the service life of the Jericho I solid-rocket motors, which probably have exceeded their reliable usable life-span. US Minuteman missile rocket motors required the propellant to be repoured, after 20 years of service. The US invested heavily in this service-live extension program spending, several billion dollars.
2. The Jericho I IRBM was kept in service at Zakaria, and the Israelis built a new and more secret missile base elsewhere for the Jericho II. If it exists, this new base has survived leaks, and disclosure from defectors, and remains one of Israel's most secret facilities. On the other hand, Israel is a small country and there are only so many places to build brand-new missile bases.
3. A third possibility is that Israel only has one strategic IRBM base, located at Zakaria, and both the Jericho I, and II are deployed there. One problem with this theory is that there does not seem to be enough hardened missile shelters to support the reported 100 missile emplacements. Ikonos imagery reveals about 21 probable shelters.
4. Lastly, some of the missile lauchers could be deployed in the field. Unlike the US deployment of Pershing II and Cruise missiles in Europe, there are simply not very many locations that are secure, and free from detection by hostile enemies or terrorists.
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