What cruise and ballistic missiles does Israel have, and can they destroy the Shahed-136 production plant

Israel has its own line of sea- and air-based missiles, but data on the “missile program” is mostly kept secret.

An infographic is now circulating in the public domain, according to which Israel launched 28 missile strikes on military targets in Syria in 2022. At the same time, 23 strikes were carried out by aircraft, one strike by a drone, and another four by unnamed surface-to-surface missiles.

 And such data are in complete contrast to the reports that Israel probably used “only” small quadcopters with explosives to strike the strategic facilities of Iran’s military industry on January 29, 2023.

Formal logic suggests that such a “mismatch” means the presence of a sufficiently powerful “missile shield” in Israel, which, however, may have limits in terms of the range of use and the number of available missiles. And if we work with other open data sources, we can see the following picture.

Israeli missile strikes on military targets in Syria in 2022, open source infographic

Let’s start with the fact that Israel is one of the few countries in the world with medium-range ballistic missiles (IMBs) of the Jericho 2 type, which has a range of up to 1,500 km and, in theory, can be carriers of nuclear weapons. But according to The Military Balance 2022 guide, Israel has only 24 Jericho 2 missiles at its disposal.

The second longest range is the Popeye Turbo cruise missile. Data on the firing range of this KR can range from 200-350 km (in the version for launch from aircraft) to 1,500 km (in the version for launch from submarines ), as indicated by the materials of CSIS (Center for International and Strategic Studies). 

There is no data on how many Popeye Turbos Israel can have at its disposal. But we can assume that the Israeli military is forced to “economize” on a KR of this type, if only because the Popeye Turbo is also designed as a potential carrier of nuclear weapons.

We would not, however, rule out the possibility that Israel employed the Popeye Turbo in 2022 for attacks on Syrian military targets.

Israel’s missile arsenal, infographic from CSIS

In turn, the previously stated KR derives from the Popeye 1 and Popeye 2 cruise missiles, which entered service in 1986 and 1995, respectively.

Popeye 1 missile with a mass of 1360 kg has a warhead of 360 kg and a firing range of 80 km. This KR has a combined guidance system – an inertial navigation system at the main stage of the flight and an infrared GPS at the terminal stage of the flight. 

Such a guidance system provides a probable deviation from the target only up to 3 meters. But for Popeye 1, the carrier aircraft must carry the AN/ASW-55 equipment unit weighing 865 kg, so heavy fighters of the F-15 type can only use the KR.

Popeye 2 is characterized by a weight reduced to 1135 kg with a warhead of 350 kg and a flight range of up to 75 km. This KR is certified specifically for use with the F-16, which uses an inertial navigation system using GPS navigation.

Israeli Popeye 1 missiles on parade in South Korea, illustrative photo from open sources.

There is no publicly available data on the number of Popeye 1 and Popeye 2 at the disposal of the Israeli Air Force. Interestingly, the Israeli military-industrial complex exported such missiles to the USA, Australia, and South Korea, but these products had no experience of successful operation there.

Regarding the LORA ballistic missile, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in its report Missile Technology: 

Accelerating Challenges says the following: “The Israel Defense Forces are also believed to be using the LORA ballistic missile, which was previously exported to Azerbaijan, but interdepartmental competition within the IDF may have hampered acquisition plans ( such OTRK – ed.).”

OTRK Lora of the Army of Azerbaijan, illustrative photo from open sources

As a result, we have such a picture. Israel has at its disposal a certain number of long-range ballistic and cruise missiles, which, however, are “held in reserve” in case of a “big war” against Iran. 

The aviation arsenal of the Kyrgyz Republic allows it to hit military targets on the territory of Syria. Therefore, even though it has its own autarkic “missile program,” Israel is forced to use only “improvisation” in the form of small drones with “cotton” for strikes in the strategic depth of its enemy’s territory.

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