The Jericho 1 is a short-range, road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile. Its primary function is as a strike weapon against hostile neighbors and can be equipped for a conventional, chemical, or nuclear response.
The Jericho 1 is believed to have entered development in 1962 with the assistance of the French company Marcel-Dassault. It is believed that 16 test launches took place between 1965 and 1968, of which 10 were successful. In 1973, the missile entered service, originally deployed in caves in Zacharia, south-west of Tel Aviv.
The initial deployment of the Jericho 1 was significant in that it gave Israel the ability to counter any military attack with nuclear weapons. Though Israel has stated that it will not be the first to deploy nuclear weapons, the Jericho 1 was also a deterrent against a conventional invasion by threatening escalation. The range on the Jericho 1 is sufficient to strike major cities such as Damascus and Cairo from secured launch locations. In the wake of the 1973 war, this deterrent against a future Syrian or Egyptian attack was critical.
The Jericho 1’s maximum range was approximately 500 km (310 miles) and it carried a payload of 650 kg, reportedly either a 450 kg high explosive or 20 kT nuclear warhead. Considering the size of the payload, this yield is low and could have been increased in the future. In fact, reports indicate that an upgraded version of the Jericho 1 was designed to do precisely that. The Jericho 1 had a launch weight of 6,700 kg, a length of 13.4 m, and a width of 0.8 m. It used a two-stage solid propellant engine with a separating warhead and a reported accuracy of 1000 m CEP. It could be launched from a railroad flat truck or a mobile vehicle.
It is believed that all Jericho 1 missiles have been taken out of service and replaced with the superior Jericho 2 design.
The Jericho 2 is a medium-range, road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile. The missiles are currently based in Zacharia, located south-west of Tel Aviv and stationed in underground caves and silos. It is believed that approximately 90 Jericho 2 missiles are deployed at this site.
The Jericho 2 was a continuation of the Jericho 1 project. It entered development in 1977 and there have been several reported test firings since 1986. There is some evidence that it originated as a joint Israeli-Iranian project but, if so, any cooperation ended by 1979. Reports also indicate that there was cooperation between the Israeli Jericho 2 and South African Arniston missile project during the 1980s, which is further evidenced by the 1,400 km (869 mile) test launch of a possible Jericho 2 in South Africa during 1989. Eight additional tests are believed to have been conducted by Israel between 1989 and 2001.
It has a reported maximum range of 1,500 km (932 miles), but the capability of the design is such that it may have a range of up to 3,500 or 4,000 km (2,174 or 2,485 miles). This greater range would be sufficient to strike most targets within the Middle East from secure launch locations. The Jericho 2 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. Its accuracy is unknown. 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, ensuring survival against any attack.
It is believed that the Jericho 3 was declared operational in 2011, and, as a result, the Jericho 2 will be slowly phased out over the next ten years.
The Jericho 3 is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that became operational in 2011. It is believed to have a two or three-stage solid propellant ballistic missile with a payload of 1,000 to 1,300 kg. It is possible that the missile is equipped with a single 750 kg nuclear warhead or two or three low yield MIRV warheads. It has an estimated launch weight of 29,000 kg, a length of 15.5 to 16.0 m, and a diameter of 1.56 m. It is likely similar to an upgraded Shavit space launch vehicle, though it will probably have longer first and second-stage motors. It is estimated that it will have a range of 4,800 to 6,500 km (2,982 to 4,038 miles). It is believed that the Jericho 3 uses inertial guidance with a radar guided warhead. The missile will probably be silo-based with mobile vehicle and railcar capabilities.
Reports suggest that the Jericho 3 missile was first tested in January 2008 with a subsequent motor test in February 2008. Another unconfirmed test was reported in 2011. Due to the Jericho 3’s increased range, fewer missiles will likely be built. 1
- Lennox, Duncan. “Jericho 1/2/3 (YA-1/YA-3/YA-4).” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). March 26, 2012. (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩