Israel weighs leasing India military satellite

Monday, December 8, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel has been mulling an offer by India to lease the Ofeq-5 military satellite.

India proposed paying a fee for a link from Israel's new Ofeq-5 satellite, said to have a high resolution imagery of 0.5 meters. The issue was raised during the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to New Dehli in September.

Israel has never provided foreign access to any of its Ofeq spy satellites, the first of which was launched in 1988. But Israeli officials said sharp cuts in the Defense Ministry and the close strategic relations with New Dehli have led to an Israeli review of its policy, Middle East Newsline reported.

India and Israel have signed a space cooperation agreement that envisions Israeli cooperation in a range of Indian satellite projects. India was said to have experienced obstacles in developing advanced remote imagery payloads for its satellites.

Under the proposal, India would obtain images of the disputed Kashmir region, which has been the site of a decades-old war with Pakistan. But officials said Ofeq might also provide imagery of military facilities inside Pakistan.

Ofeq-5 was launched in 2002 by the Shavit launcher. But the satellite and the booster were designed and manufactured by the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries.

Officials said Israel's Defense Ministry has offered India the services of the dual-use Eros-A satellite, launched in 2000. A more advanced satellite, Eros-B, has been planned for launch by 2005 and is meant to have a high resolution imagery capability of 0.8 meters.

India is already a satellite operating partner in Eros A, operated by ImageSat International, in which IAI has a 30 percent stake. Israel's Defense Ministry is said to be a leading customer of Eros.

Eros-B has offered multi-spectral images that allow customers to monitor a specific area.

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