Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrives in Washington, D.C., next week. And he’s coming with a list of demands for U.S. defense officials. Topping that list: Israel wants money to build-out its multi-layered missile and rocket defense shield and it wants to get its hands on advanced technology from the Joint Strike Fighter program.
If it gets what it wants, Barak suggested Israel wouldn’t oppose the proposed U.S. sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia; although perhaps not in the numbers being discussed. In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Barak evoked Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), suggesting that Saudi Arabia’s acquisition of dozens of brand new F-15 fighters could tilt the regional military balance.
“[W]e would appreciate it if we could be compensated and the qualitative edge will be assured as well as certain aspects of the quantity. Beyond certain point, quantity turns into quality especially when the planes themselves are extremely sophisticated one.”
Israel isn’t in a position to dictate who the U.S. sells advanced weaponry to, Barak said; although it really is. If Israel so desires, it can mobilize its powerful allies in Congress to hold up arms sales to Arab nations, especially when it’s something as big as the sale of 84 F-15s.
So what does Israel want for compensation? Barak said he wants money to erect a multi-layered rocket and missile defense shield over Israel, which has been his “vision from day one” in office. Hostile non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas have turned to the poor man’s strategic bomber, the rocket, to menace Israeli cities.
Israel’s in-development, multi-layered defensive shield includes Iron Dome (which we wrote about here) to catch short ranged rockets and artillery rounds and David’s Sling, intended to intercept larger Scud sized missiles. The top layer of the shield, the Arrow and Super Arrow interceptors, are designed to protect against possible ballistic missiles launched from Syria and Iran, Barak said.
“And that kind of system that combined together will cost, in order to be fully deployed and fully protect Israel; we need tens of thousands of the short-range interceptors, thousands of the David Slings interceptors and many hundreds of the upper layers. That’s a big package.
It’s extremely successful science and technology being put together, extremely short R&D schedule. But in order to fully deploy we need some $7-8 billion and expect that in the framework of making peace with our neighbors we will be able to give this answer to make Israelis feel secure.”
As for the JSF, Barak said Israel ultimately wants “several dozen” of the advanced aircraft, although the buys would be stretched out over time. Israel wants to be able to put its own electronics warfare package in the JSF, he said, but also:
“We need of course to be able to participate in production of some parts in our industry as well as making sure that we can continue keeping our real edge which stems out from Israeli electronics and from our weapons’ systems to find the balance, an agreed upon balance between our needs and the American readiness to give us access to these advanced planes.”
It sure sounds like Israel wants some kind of technology transfer in the deal. Considering how desperately the JSF program needs an Israeli buy, I’m guessing Barak won’t leave Washington empty handed.
— Greg Grant