Israel Considers Options to Buy US Warplanes, Helicopters
Israel is considering which of two major U.S. defense contractors to patronize when it closes two deals to replace its fleet of aging warplanes and transport helicopters, according to Globes. It may decide to choose both, depending on which aircraft is purchased.
The Israel Air Force has sought to replace its current Boeing F-15 fighter jets with a more advanced model, equipped with an AESA (advanced active electronically scanned array) radar system, for years, albeit one without stealth capabilities. The AESA-equipped F-15 strategic bomber has advanced attack capabilities: it’s operated by a two-pilot crew and is a twin-engine plane that can keep going, even if one of the engines fails. It also is capable of carrying larger payloads.
The new F-15 costs $100 million per plane, but it won’t be unique to Israel in the Middle East despite Israel’s urgent requests to then-President Barack Obama not to sell the fighter jet to Qatar last year so as to maintain Israel’s military edge in the region. Nevertheless, Obama gave a green light for the sale of 72 of the new F-15s to Qatar just before leaving office. The plane is more advanced than those sold to Qatar and Saudi Arabia in previous years.
The Defense Ministry has also requested information from the U.S. Defense Department about transport helicopters, especially in light of the fact that Israel’s Yassur helicopter reaches its 45th anniversary this year. In particular, Israel would like to know about the 200 CH-53K helicopter from Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin, which is currently in development, and about the CH-47 Chinook, Boeing’s veteran transport helicopter. There is approximately a 30 percent difference in price between the two.
In general, Israel has requested information about the performance, availability, and production line of both helicopters, and whether it is possible to install Israeli systems in either or both of the aircraft.
Most of the funds for the purchase of the aircraft will be drawn from the $3.33 billion included in the 10-year multi-year military aid plan set to begin in 2018. The funds are specifically allocated for buying missiles and the F-35 ‘Adir’ (Hebrew for “mighty”) stealth fighter jet project. Two of the new F-35 Adir stealth fighter jets were delivered to Israel in December 2016.
But the final decision won’t come for a while, although the issue is likely to be raised during Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s visit to Washington DC.
Liberman met Tuesday with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence. He was expected to meet Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for talks that are likely to include a discussion about the military aid funds and the purchase of fighter jets and helicopters.
Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement that Liberman and Mattis “discussed in detail the US-Israeli defense relationship. Secretary Mattis reaffirmed the US commitment to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge.
“Minister Liberman shared his perspective on the challenges and opportunities in the region following up on recent discussions between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Israeli defense relationship and the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security now and in the future.”
Vice President underlined the “unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to upholding Israel’s qualitative military edge,” according to a statement from the White House.
Pence and Liberman agreed during their meeting on the need to “counter threats posed by Iran and its proxies as well as terrorist organizations,” and discussed ways in which the American and Israeli militaries could cooperate to address threats.
Source: By Hana Levi Julian