The IDF uses six Israeli spy satellites to monitor enemy countries in the region and other areas of interests around the world. Each satellite orbits earth every 90 minutes, enabling the army to closely watch any point in the Middle East, Yediot Aharonot daily reported.
The satellites are operated by IDF Unit 9900, which specializes in collecting geo-intelligence via advanced technologies. The high-resolution images taken from space allow the army to spot small details with great precision.
The unit’s satellite branch received several citations in the last two years, including one for a secret operation carried out in cooperation with Mossad, the report said.
Notably, Israel’s satellites are much smaller than the ones used by superpowers like the United States. The satellites are built by Israel Aerospace Industries, which also sold some to other countries.
In space for 19 years
While satellite operators elsewhere are usually older engineers, the IDF counts on 19-year-olds for this demanding task. The army recruits bright and creative candidates from diverse backgrounds, a senior officer told Yediot. Some excel in math and computer science while others come from artistic fields such as theater or dance, she said.
The unit looks for capable problem-solvers and technological skill is not the only criteria, the officer said. Recruits undergo a five-month training program to prepare them for the job.
The satellite branch is also known for its high number of female recruits, and currently 62% of satellite operators are women, the report said. Many females also serve in command roles in the unit.
The IDF’s newest satellite, Ofek-16, was launched into space last year and provides the army with unprecedented intelligence capabilities. Israel’s first satellite, Ofek-5, is still operational after 19 years in service despite forecasts that it would only last five years.
Ofek-16 is fitted with a state-of-the-art camera that produces superb images for Israel’s defense establishment. The new satellite is believed to supply invaluable information for alleged IDF airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria and other critical missions.