Monday, September 20, 2010

The world's new slinky

Yeah. It's amazing!

Let's say you're a small country. Very small. Your means of defence is arrived at by some convoluted deal in which the country with world's largest and most expensive military keeps you at a level of military capability which will keep you fighting for about three weeks. After that, your ass depends on that other country either having swayed world opinion in your favour, (and the global cavalry comes over the hill to save the day), or they park a couple of super-carriers on your doorstep and neither confirm nor deny that they have it within their means to turn your opposition's cities into glass parking lots.

Still, you have enough moxie to know what you need to keep yourself going for three weeks and have the history to demonstrate that, with the right resources, you can dispatch all comers before you have to pull the fire alarm.

The problem is, being able to pull off that three weeks is expensive and most of your TO and E is paid for by the foreign aid contribution of that large country. Still, you'd like to be able to pick your own stuff and maybe even modify it to suit your needs.

Then, along comes the F-35 Lightning II. You view it as expensive and unsuitable for your needs. You have something different in mind. Until that large country, your defence benefactor, tells you otherwise.
It now turns out that unostentatiously, while overseeing the Israel-Palestinian peace talks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton busied herself last week in Jerusalem with an errand of equal important to Washington: bulldozing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak into agreeing to buy 35 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning stealth warplanes for the Israeli Air Force at a cost of $4.7 billion.

This transaction Israel can ill afford. debkafile's military sources report it is opposed by senior ministers, especially Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, and even more fiercely by high IDF officers and heads of Israel's Aerospace Industries. Nonetheless, Clinton got her wish; a special committee the Prime Minister set up for the purpose approved the purchase after cutting down the final number of F-35 warplanes from 35 to 20 at a cost of "only" $2.7 billion.

Military chiefs, furious over Netanyahu's hasty action, said it makes nonsense of the drastic cuts just imposed on defense spending and means that the IDF will have to do without certain new weapons systems needed for facing up to threats from Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. One officer accused the prime minister of "shamefully and needlessly surrendering to American pressure."

Hmmm. DEBKA is unabashedly hawkish when it comes to Israeli defence and has a reputation for getting pretty chummy with right-wing journals. They also have a habit of using "unnamed sources" for just about everything. The problem, however, is that read as archival history, they have a reputation for accuracy.

The Israelis, no less than any other purchaser of a new and untested warplane, would want to be in on some of the production, and they, like any other country would want regional industrial benefits from such a purchase.

... military sources dismiss reports that Israeli industry will take part in manufacturing the F-35s on sale are untrue. On the contrary, the Americans have laid down tougher limitations than ever before against Israeli access to the production process.

Israeli aeronautical experts and technicians are denied access to the production lines of the plane. Israel's Air Force and Aerospace Industries are prohibited from installing their own homemade systems to the new plane or even altering the Lockheed Martin systems to meet their special needs without prior US consent.


A. You're buying this thing because it's "the best fighter ever". We don't care if you really want the Euro-fighter - in the end it's us paying for it;

B. No. You can't help build it. We already have "gentlemens' agreements" with other countries and if we jeopardize those IRBs they may cancel their order;

C. Lockheed Martin 'R' Us. We're in a world of hurt if we can't peddle this crate so ... shut up and buy them. Just tell everyone there was a competition and Boeing lost.

Even Israeli pilots will only see the finished product when it is ready for their instruction. This will happen towards the end of 2011. The first F-35s are scheduled for delivery in 2015.

Two ministers, Steinitz and the former chief of staff Moshe Yaalon, are skeptical about the US plane's ability to contribute much toward enhancing the IAF's standards. Its design has met wide criticism in military aviation circles. They fear that the decision to purchase it was guided by politics rather than military considerations.

Now where have you heard that before?


Alison said...

As I understand it, every year $2-billion+ of US taxpayers money is laundered through Israel back to US military contractors via an agreement which stipulates that Israel must spend 75% of the $3-billion in US aid it receives on military hardware made in the US of A.

What's our excuse?

Mark Richard Francis said...

Israel also provides a lot of IT and espionage talent to the massive American homeland security biz. This makes up a sizable amount of Israel's GDP. Don't play ball, and they lose access.

See? Get some guts, use leverage, and the dog can wag the tail.

Boris said...

Whatever its operationally unproven merits, there's a lot of bottle flies buzzing around around shipping crate.

Why do I think this is all going to end in tears for the buyers?