Israel's involvement with nuclear technology
dates back to the founding of the country in 1948.
In 1949 French atomic energy commissioner visited Israel and
a joint research program was set up between the two countries.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, France was Israel's
principal arms supplier, and helped Israel built a nuclear
reactor and plutonium production facility. In return Israel
spied for France on its Arab neighbours as the independence
movement spread in France's colonies in North Africa.
In 1958, American U-2 spy planes confirmed the existence
of Israel's Dimona nuclear complex, located in the Negev
On 2 December 1960, the US State Department issued a determination
that Israel had
a secret nuclear installation. By 16 December this revelation
became public knowledge with its appearance in the New
In 1967, nuclear collaboration between Israel and South
Africa established, and the joint program continued through
the 70s and 80s.
In 1969, Israel acquired the F-4 Phantom II to carrier the
nuclear weapons, which was later upgraded to the F-16 that
has an unrefueled radius of action of 1250 km.
On 22 September 1979, South Africa and Israel jointly tested
nuclear explosion in the south Indian Ocean.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician worked at
Dimona, exposed the details of Israel's nuclear program to
the British press. For his actions, he was kidnapped by Israeli
intelligence agents and sentenced for treason by Israeli
authority to eighteen years with eleven of them in solitary
In 1973, Israel developed medium-range ballistic missiles
(the Jericho-1) with a 500 kg payload, and a range of 480-650
In 1990, Israel developed Jericho 2 with a 1000 kg payload
and a range of over 1500 km.
An image of the Dimona facility taken by a US
Corona spy satellite in 1971 (Mission 1115-2, 29 September
1971, Frame: 52, 53). In the 1960s an Israeli Air Force
Mirage was shot down when it accidentally ventured too
close to Dimona.
A close up of the same Corona frames.
Side-by-side comparison of a Corona image and
the much lower resolution SPOT commercial imaging satellite.
The SPOT image labels the Dimona nuclear reactor dome and
Machon 2 which houses the plutonium separation plant.
The estimate by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
puts Israel's arsenal at around 200 nuclear warheads. These
warheads can reach Iran and Russia, and be launched by air
(F-16s and F-15Es), by ground (intermediate-range ballistic
missiles like the Jericho II), or by sea (U.S.-made Harpoon
missiles based on diesel-powered submarines or ships). Israel can undoubtedly
deploy nuclear weapons using its capable air force. The aircraft
and crews dedicated to nuclear weapons delivery are located
at the Tel Nof airbase.
About 50 Jericho-1s and 50 Jericho-2s are believed to have
been deployed. Israel also has a 100 or more US supplied
Lance tactical missiles, with a range of 115 km (72 miles).
Although these were supplied with conventional warheads,
they could have been outfitted with nuclear or chemical ones.
It is also believed Israel possesses at least 100 bunker-busting
bombs (mini-nukes) which are laser-guided and capable of
penetrating underground targets.
Ironically, the world's fifth or sixth largest nuclear power
has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As
a result, Israel is not subject to inspections and the threat
of sanctions by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, while
other Arab states in the region, though having signed and
being repeatedly inspected, are sanctioned without hard evidence
to prove they have ever failed to comply with the obligations.
More at the following websites:
Israel’s Nuclear Program and Middle
East Peace - Council of Foreign Relations, cfr.org
Israel's Nuclear Weapons Program -
Israel's nuclear programme -
Israel Faces Questions About News
Reports of Eyeing Iran Strike -
Satellite images credit to
John Pike at the Federation of American Scientists.
The Dimona Reactor Dome credit to Israel nuclear scientist
Prev: Standoff in Oakland
Next: Whose Coffins Are These?