פיצוץ רב עוצמה במהלך ניסוי במרכז הארץ
An explosion is seen at a rocket production facility in central Israel on April 20
Photo: Tzah Hermon
An explosion is seen at a rocket production facility in central Israel on April 20

Rocket engine test likely caused blast in central Israel, analyst says

Satellite photos of a known rocket test stand at Sdot Micha Air Base show char marks and foliage burned away at the site after April 20 explosion, but no signs of damage for surrounding buildings

Associated Press |
Published: 04.25.21, 21:57
A mysterious blast heard in central Israel appears to have come during a rocket engine test conducted at a secretive military base associated with the country’s missile program, according to an analyst and satellite images.
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  • Video of the incident at Sdot Micha Air Base circulated online last week. Iranian state media seized on it amid its tensions with Israel after a series of attacks targeting its nuclear program and amid negotiations in Vienna over its tattered atomic accord.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    פיצוץ רב עוצמה במהלך ניסוי במרכז הארץ
    פיצוץ רב עוצמה במהלך ניסוי במרכז הארץ
    An explosion is seen at a rocket production facility in central Israel on April 20
    (Photo: Tzah Hermon)
    However, the smoke and flames filmed April 20 appear to be from a rocket engine test, said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who located the site with others. Lewis said the image compared to others of similar tests he and experts have extensively studied.
    Satellite photos taken by Planet Labs Inc. and analyzed by The Associated Press of a known rocket test stand at Sdot Micha showed char marks and foliage burned away at the site after April 20. However, the surrounding buildings bore no signs of damage. The location also mirrored details of the video posted to social media.
    The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to questions from the AP.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    A satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows what analysts describe as a test site for rocket motors at Israel's secretive Sdot Micha Air Base
    A satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows what analysts describe as a test site for rocket motors at Israel's secretive Sdot Micha Air Base
    A satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows what analysts describe as a test site for rocket motors at Israel's secretive Sdot Micha Air Base
    (Photo: AP)
    Tomer, an Israeli government-owned company, told the AP on Sunday the blast came from “a conventional, controlled test in accordance with the working plan.”
    The incident came just after Israel and the U.S. announced in February they would begin work on a new generation of interceptor missiles called the Arrow-4. Tomar on its website describes itself as producing the “rocket motors of the Arrow missiles, Shavit satellite launchers, ELRAD air defense systems and artillery rockets.” Such test-stand experiments often involve new systems.
    (Video: Tzah Hermon)
    Tomer declined to comment on whether the test involved the Arrow.
    Israel hopes to replace its Arrow-2 missiles for the Arrow-4. The missiles, fired out of canisters, intercept and destroy ballistic missiles. The Arrow missiles are key to Israel’s defense from the ballistic missile program of Iran, Israel’s regional archenemy.
    In a February statement, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Arrow-4 would provide Israel with a “technological and operational leap forward, preparing us for the future battlefield and evolving threats in the Middle East and beyond.”
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    החל פיתוח הדור הבא של טילי חץ 4 בתעשייה האווירית
    החל פיתוח הדור הבא של טילי חץ 4 בתעשייה האווירית
    A projected image of the Arrow-4 missile
    (Photo: Defense Ministry)
    The airbase, some 35 kilometers (21 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv, includes a system of bunkers and underground facilities, some built with assistance from the U.S. government.
    Defense analysis firm Janes believes the airbase also is home to Israel’s nuclear weapon-capable Jericho ballistic missiles. Under its policy of nuclear ambiguity, Israel neither confirms nor denies having atomic weapons though it is widely believed to possess them.

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