Defense Digest August 2016

Defense Digest

On July 28, the U.S. and Israeli air forces signed a strategic agreement to enhance cooperation in a range of areas. Two weeks later, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein (left) visited Israel to meet with his Israeli counterpart Maj. Gen Amir Eshel (right). (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Israel)

Pentagon Considers Israel’s Iron Dome System to Protect Deployed U.S. Forces

The United States and Israel are partnering to adapt the Israeli-developed Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system as a possible option to better protect forward-deployed American forces. U.S.-based Raytheon and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are working together to produce Iron Dome interceptors compatible with U.S. systems. Branded by Raytheon as SkyHunter, the new interceptor would serve as a U.S. Army missile and air defense system. According to Raytheon’s description, SkyHunter is “a ground-based missile interceptor system consisting of a guided missile with electro-optic sensors and adjustable steering fins for tracking and destroying incoming enemy rockets, missiles, artillery and mortars.” In late April, the U.S. Army completed a successful test of Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor against target drones at a test site in New Mexico. Raytheon and Rafael already have an agreement for the coproduction of Iron Dome components to defend Israel, with government and industry sources saying that half of U.S. production funds are spent in the United States.

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Israel Participates in International Joint Aerial Combat Exercise with the United States

On Aug. 15, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) joined the three-week Red Flag aerial combat simulation hosted by the United States at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base. This year marks the second consecutive year that Israel is participating in the exercise. The IAF sent F-16I “Sufa” (Storm) fighter jets to take part in the simulation. Israeli pilots are flying alongside their counterparts from various countries around the world, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan—two countries with which Israel does not have official diplomatic relations. “The air force trains regularly in Israel and abroad in order to maintain operational fitness for various operational plans. The Red Flag exercise involves unique and high-quality training. When the IAF was invited to participate, it accepted the invitation,” said an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson. The Red Flag training exercise employs fighter jets in advanced aerial combat simulations.

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Lockheed Martin Orders Additional Systems from Israel for F-35 Production

The Israeli Ministry of Defense recently disclosed that Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-35 fighter aircraft, has increased its orders of Israeli components for the production of the stealth warplane. Thus far, $993 million worth of reciprocal procurement transactions have been signed. In 2016, the defense giant increased by $190 million its orders for F-35 helmets, which is jointly manufactured by U.S.-based Rockwell Collins and Israel’s Elbit Systems. Lockheed Martin also expanded by $26 million its contract with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the procurement of additional wing sets. On July 12, IAI delivered its 10th F-35 wing set to Lockheed Martin, and is anticipated to produce 811 F-35 wing pairs by 2034. Israel has purchased 33 F-35 fighter jets from the United States, with the first two planes scheduled to be delivered to Israel by the end of this year.

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U.S., Israeli Air Forces Sign Strategic Agreement to Enhance Cooperation

On July 28, the U.S. and Israeli air forces signed a strategic agreement—the second in two years—to enhance cooperation between the two military branches in areas such as mutual exercises, aerial medicine and flight safety. The agreement was signed by Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, the Israeli Air Force Chief of Staff, and Maj. Gen. Lawrence M. Martin, Jr., the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, International Affairs. The main subject of the meeting this year was the F-35, because the coming year will be the first time that both air forces are integrating new aircraft at the same time. According to Brig. Gen. Kelman, “…we promoted all of the cooperative fields with the USAF, while emphasizing the cooperation in preparation of the arrival of the ‘Adir' [F-35I] in December.”

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U.S. Defense Industries Continue to Benefit from Missile Defense Partnership with Israel

Leading U.S. defense companies Boeing and Raytheon are increasingly benefiting from their partnerships with Israeli industries on joint missile defense systems. According to industry executives, 50 percent of U.S. government procurement funding for Israeli missile defense programs currently reverts back to the two companies. “We’re very happy with the cooperation we enjoy with MDA [the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency]…It’s essential for us, but also very important to the U.S. economy,” said the head of Upper-Tier Programs at the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO). He added, “Many American workers get up in the morning and make their living from Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow programs. It’s not just the major partners—Boeing and Raytheon—but their subcontractors and suppliers spread out over most states of America.” According to government and industry sources, Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are in the final stages of negotiating a coproduction agreement for the jointly-developed Arrow-3 long-range missile defense system.

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Israeli Navy to Acquire U.S.-Produced Rapid-Fire Guns

The Israeli Navy is in negotiations with the U.S. Navy to purchase an estimated $100 million worth of 76mm rapid-fire guns. The foreign military sale would be financed through U.S. military aid. According to the Israeli Navy, the new guns would equip Israel’s fleet of Sa’ar surface vessels. “We’ve been waiting for this gun for many, many years,” said an Israel Navy captain. The 76mm Super Rapid gun mount, produced by Italian defense contractor Oto Melara, is a multi-mission naval artillery system geared toward defending against fast, small boats that require a rapid-fire weapon at ranges of up to 10 nautical miles.

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