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Lightning Strike: Huge F-35 Deal Will mean JSF Lands in Israel

Cost Offsets

The JSF saga continues, but it is nearing its end.

We may not be gaining access to critical JSF components, but the tough to swallow price tag may now be muted according to Israeli sources. In the form of a 4 billion dollar manufacturing cost offset which will somewhat lessen the economic sting of a JSF costing twice as much as an F15 latest gen Boeing fighter..

Israeli defense companies have scored one of the biggest deals in the industry’s history: They will be making about $4 billion worth of parts for the next generation of American fighter jets, industry sources told TheMarker.

While no official announcement has been made, Israeli defense officials have been talking with the U.S. defense companies involved in the development and production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. [...]

It is a testament to how badly Israel, the US & Lockheed want to make this whole thing work. After the JSF balloon in cost, both the USA & Lockheed need orders for the jet badly. Israel needs help paying for it.

Prestige

The IAF is indeed a huge win in the jet fighter realm.. The Israeli airforce is world renowned and other countries pay close attention to Israeli procurement. Israel would be the 1st original non official partner on board buying the jet. A huge prestige win for Lockheed & a needed vote of confidence in the JSF.

We can only go with 19 instead of 75 for now, but rest assured a procurement win of 20 or so from Israel will eventually mean a few hundred JSFs sold to other countries down the road. Something the Pentagon & both Lockheed will need to bring down the cost of the jet for US use via mass export / increased production over the next two decades.

F-35 Lightning II / JSF

A large local manufacturing win in Israel will lighten the JSF costs significantly. Please Israel, Lockheed and the US Congress - Which is committed to Israel's security & having us fly the latest US fighter. If these design wins are confirmed, the JSF will be landing in Israel soon to Boeing's F-15 displeasure. (Photo courtesy USAF)

Nothing is official, but if Israel can lend abiltiy, expertise & benefit from the gigantic JSF economy of the future it is almost a certainty that the JSF will have a trump card the F-15 cannot compete with on price alone.

There are other factors at play between the two jets competing over Israeli airspace, but the JSF cost balloon was a substantial & critical one.

Eagle Takes Flight: Israel Eyes Maiden F-15SE Tests

Procurement Wars as Lockheed Boeing Face Off

If you follow the Hashmonean you already know about the saga playing out to vie the Israeli skies.

In one corner, the largest procurement defense contract in US history known as the JSF – The fighter of the future addled by teething problems and ballooning budgets. In the other, the veritable air to air superiority fighter of the 20th Century – The F-15. Now updated with new aerodynamics, enclosed weapon bays, modern avionics, Air to Air radar absorbing coatings, and sporting a new moniker the F-15SE (Silent Eagle).

I have followed the saga closely..

JSF F35 Lightning II key procurement factors for Israel remain:

Economics, Time Frames, and Access. We already know the JSF, who’s costs have quadrupled for Israeli procurement (150 Million+) cannot be bought in numbers originally envisioned. We already know that deliveries will not meet critical threats and our need for long range interdiction soon. We already know that Israel & the Pentagon are in a long running battle regarding access to key F-35 JSF electronic systems & components. Initial squadron deliveries of vanilla JSFs themselves to Israel are no longer envisioned before 2016-2018, if then.

F-15 - We already know that Israel has maintained 100 – 0 kill ratios flying the eagle. We already know we can fly them with one wing blown clear off. We already know that Israel has previously procured Eagles with custom requirements & Israeli avionics in the F-15I RAAM (Thunder), and we have a long term training, supply and maintenance regiment in place.

Video on An Israeli F-15 flying with one wing..

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Escalation.

What has changed? The Eagle has taken flight. Boeing, having lost the initial X-Plane prototype race to Lockheed which produced the F35, now seeks a little sweet revenge. Key words? Aggressive flight testing schedule.

The Israel Air Force closely followed the maiden flight of the F-15 Silent Eagle, which took to the skies over the weekend in the US. Debate continued within the Defense Ministry over whether it should buy the aircraft in the face of expected additional delays in the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The flight took place over St. Louis, headquarters of the plane’s developer, Boeing Co.

During the 80-minute flight, the plane, called the F-15E1, opened and closed its left-side conformal weapons bay, which contained an AIM-120 Instrumented Test Vehicle (ITV) missile that was not launched.

“The Silent Eagle demonstration flight validated our initial engineering design approach,” said Boeing F-15 Development Programs Director Brad Jones. “Our intent was to verify all systems are operational in a flight environment. This flawless flight allows us to move into the next phase. In the next couple of weeks, we will ferry F-15E1 to the test range and launch an AIM- 120.” [...]

Crunch Time -  We will not be getting the F-35 JSF access we want.

Last month it was reported that a critical factor for Israel regarding the JSF continued to lay with access. The Obama administration & Israel like to say loud and proud that defense ties are phenomenal. But Israelis are sharp tacks. We mere mortals suspect that JDAMs, Fuel, ordnance and other goodies were withheld when Obama came into office as pressure tactics on the Netanyahu govt.

Should future conflict erupt with a 3rd party under a future less friendly administration.. We may be stuck without access to key electronic systems, replacement parts and the JSF computer core – Woohoo! Grounding one of the most lethal air forces in the world while we wait for C-5 Galaxies to disgorge components coming from the USA..

Why is it likely we won’t we be getting full access? Because this tidbit made the news last week regarding ongoing JSF negotiations..

Israel wants the Obama administration and Lockheed-Martin Company (NYSE: LMT) to set up a US-run logistics and maintenance center for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet in the Negev, reports “Defense News”, quoting US and Israeli government and industry sources. Lockheed-Martin is the chief contractor for the F-35, which is due to become the next-generation mainstay of the Israel Air Force.

The request is basically a new Israeli condition to Israel’s commitment to procure the expensive planes.

“Defense News” says that Israeli officials consider construction of a large logistics center to be a critical factor for independent operational capabilities, especially since airports and seaports are liable to be targets of rocket and missile attacks in a war.

You know it baby! They call it just in time delivery today.  Stock & lock them computer cores, systems, replacements and all the JSF goodies right here in the holy land. That way when the going gets tough.. The tough don’t all of a sudden decide to get all political on us.

Fighter of the future or old faithful?

Perhaps both. Or maybe simply the aerial wars continue – If you’ve ever pulled a few Gs in a 100 million dollar fighter plane you already know, brinkmanship is all part of the dogfight. A decision is expected in Israel by fall.

Fast Track: Arrow 3 Raising The Bar on Missile Defense (Video)

Israeli program & needs dictate faster, higher capabilities

Arrow3

Boeing CGI of the jointly in development IAI Arrow 3 ABM interceptor

Last year, the USA radically altered its ballistic missile defense plans by scrapping its long range ICBM defense plan based in Europe in favor of shorter medium range defense systems. The main component of the new plans would be the SM-3 interceptor, currently in use on American AEGIS ABM Cruisers.

A major focus of the plan was to upgrade the SM3  interceptors themselves in capability, making them adaptable to launches from the ground as opposed to only at sea, amongst other capability upgrades in newer block variants of the missile.

Joint Effort

During testimony to the Armed Services Committee as a result of the scrapping of the ICBM program, we learned more about the Israeli Arrow - the next generation Israeli interceptor as well as the future of the SM-3. The new Israeli interceptor incorporates some intense new enhancements, and if deployed as planned will represent a significant jump forward for Israeli missile defense. If successful the program due to its advanced technology will likely also be employed by the USA, as it is slated to surpass the SM3 interceptors in capability and do so in the near term.

Leapfrogging current capability

The Israeli concept is to take the medium range interceptor Arrow 2s and make them more versatile in two ways. Exo Atmospheric, enabling them to intercept targets outside the atmosphere, combined with some radical advancements in self propulsion & sensors. In other words Israel wants the system to be able to self guide itself outside the atmosphere once the booster is released, allowing the actual interceptor warhead to track and seek targets solo. Instead of having multiple system designed for medium & longer range ICBMs Israel wants to combine it all into a medium system that can hit long range ICBMs in space, at least that’s my understanding of it all..

Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director of the MDA:

“The design of Arrow 3 promises to be an extremely capable system, more advanced than what we have ever attempted in the U.S. with our programs” Gen. O’Reilly told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee for strategic forces. “This has to do with the seekers that have greater flexibility and other aspects, such as propulsion systems- it will be an extremely capable system”.

The benefits of the new interceptor would include the ability to sense decoys, and re-route interception to another target. Equally, in multiple volleys with large numbers of incoming missiles the system could in theory allow Israel to send up multiple ABM missiles and the individual interceptors could re-target other warheads if their initial target were already destroyed or perhaps missed.

Science Fiction?

The Americans say.. Possibly. The reasoning lies not behind the radical Israeli technology which makes all this theoretically feasible, but the compressed time frames. General Oreilly (the father of US ABM currently) laid out how the US goes about fielding & testing US programs (Video), usually measured in years verging on a decade or more. Israel seeks to develop, field & test this radical jump in just a few scant years.

The Israel Air Force will hold its first test of the Arrow 3, under development by Israel Aerospace Industries, in early 2011, officials said on Wednesday.

Jointly developed by IAI and Boeing in the US, the Arrow 3 will serve as Israel’s top-tier missile defense system, adding another layer of defense to that provided by the Arrow 2, which is already operational and deployed throughout Israel.

The initial test of the Arrow 3 will not include the interception of a mock enemy missile. An interception test will likely take place in 2012.

“The Arrow system can effectively counter all of the missile threats that exist in the region,” said Inbal Kreiss, the Arrow 3 project manager at IAI. [...]

The much more cautious Americans are skeptical, firstly they generally spend a ton more money than Israel does in development and this translates on time frames as well. Israel does development leaner & meaner in this regard as a consequence of not having as much funding or time for that matter.

In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee June 16, O’Reilly said the Arrow-3 program has “very high schedule and technical risk,” leading MDA to fund work on a land-based version of the SM-3 as a backup.

Integration

Some of the benefits of this US skepticism are integration, as a backup Israeli arrow launchers will be modified to house the American SM3 interceptors (who’s advancement as stated will be longer in the coming). Equally, the Arrow 3 if successful will be able to integrate to American sea based launchers. Overall, the radar & detection systems are also being integrated more globally in line with the American new plan for its own missile defenses, as evidenced already by the deployment of the US X-Band Radar in Israel by G. W. Bush.

Can we succeed?

They said the Arrow itself (Hetz) could not be done as well in the 80s when it was initially proposed. The Arrow 2 is now fully deployed and can intercept Scuds & basic Shahabs as we speak. I would not bet against Israel again moving the ball forward in ABM Missile Defense. As it is the rush is on because of Iran’s large leaps in fielding ICBMs and nuclear capable missiles. In the end we don’t have much choice BUT to succeed..

Confirmation: Senior IAF Officers Question JSF Plans

Deja Vu

Last week I was complaining about the JSF fighter, and asking if we had ‘screwed the pooch’ on the planned purchase due to the fighters legendary problems.

JPOST now confirms that senior Israeli Air force officers are re-thinking the viability of our JSF plans due to the delays, and considering more F-15s as a more logical solution. That’s pretty much what I figured in last week’s post, and many others. Last week wasn’t the 1st time I’ve questioned this particular procurement piece..

In September 09 I wrote this..

Initially we were looking at 35-45 Million. Then it went to 50 Million. There was no shortage of shock when the figures jumped to 65 Million, this is when debate started to really heat up because well, the spiral was going upward out of control. In the USA the Pentagon itself was non too pleased either.

Then we started hearing 85 Million dollars per plane. I know my eyes popped out of my head – But 100 million for a stock variety JSF nulls one of the main JSF thrusts & selling points, it’s former afford-ability. At that rate Israel clearly cannot pick up the numbers previously envisioned. At higher rates it becomes questionable whether we can pick up any at all..

What’s a few Billion between friends?

The F35ii Lightning.. No telling when it will actually strike though.

Now we are learning the plane will cost over 135 Million in America, for US purposes.. and that’s before that number has frozen.

If you tack on Israeli requirements (still unresolved after 3 years of negotiation) we best figure minimum 150 Million, probably much closer to 200 Million. Hello! TOTALLY UNPROCURABLE for us in numbers we envisioned. We could buy twice as many F15s, which as JPOST says - are ready to get all the way to Iran.. loaded to the hilt.

In May 2009 I wrote the following while evaluating the new Boeing F15-SE as a contender to replace our JSF order..

25 additional F15-SEs could dovetail nicely into the established maintenance, training and equipment pipeline more quickly & cheaply. [...]  The F35 is late to the party and under dressed, the F15 Strike Eagle will have to do the job in the near term. In that case we should order more of them.

Earlier in May when the new F-15 was unveiled I was beefing about the JSF costs in a familiar refrain, comparing it to an equivalent F15 purchase instead..

In the long run the costs savings for Israel may be substantial, in training, maintenance, and upgrades to existing F-15 fleets.

Confirmation

I’m therefore less than shocked to read the excellent Yaakov Katz at JPOST pen the following yesterday..

Major delays in the production of the fifth-generation stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will likely lead to the postponement of Israel’s procurement plans, which initially set the signing of a contract by the end of March.

One top IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the Defense Ministry was unlikely to sign a letter of agreement (LOA) with the Pentagon before the end of 2010. “Everything now appears to be pushed off by at least a year,” the senior officer said.

On Sunday night, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Washington for talks with top Pentagon officials. Ashkenazi plans to speak with his American counterpart, Adm. Michael Mullen, and other Pentagon officials about the delays in the production of the JSF and how it will affect the IDF. [...]

Nor does it surprise

That such a tale would continue along these lines..

Israel had planned to order a first squadron of 25 jets within the coming months and to procure another 50 by the end of the decade. Due to the delays, some IAF officers are calling for a review of the procurement plans and to consider the possible purchase of additional F-15Is made by Boeing Company. Israel already has a squadron of F-15Is that are capable of carrying massive amounts of weaponry and flying long distances, including to Iran.

“There is some thought in this direction,” a top IAF source said recently. “Based on the development requirements, the F-35 is supposed to be a more advanced plane primarily since it is stealth, but delays in the production have led to new thinking within the IAF.”

Ya think?

This whole contract has been bungled on every level. Back in America the plane is not ready, its costs have literally quadrupled from initial estimates. The Pentagon started playing games with Israel that are yet to be resolved, not allowing Israel access to key computers or the ability to install IAF electronics, weapons & systems. That really added insult to wallet injury. It’s a cluster fark A to Z thus far from every end.

It’s not only Israel either, our American friends & allies (Well if you consider the Brits allies lol) are taking it on the jaw with this weapons system too. Big mess, Lockheed we love you.. But what the hell is going on over there!?

Friends in high places

Another point of interest is the fact that our guys are talking F15I instead of F15SE. Could it be because we already know the Obama administration won’t sell us the new F15SE without making us jump through flaming hoops? Can’t be, American Jewish Democrats assure us this is the friendliest US administration EVAH!

Rotor Fury: IAF Upgrading Blackhawks for ‘Mini Pave Low’ Offensive Capabilities

Extra Curricular Activities: Beyond Tefen

Two years into Israel’s multi-year wide ranging future procurement plan known as TEFEN, some additional details have emerged regarding Israel’s non fixed wing aircraft priorities. Public TEFEN details released at the time made no mention of major procurement moves for choppers, but the loss of several Apaches from mid air collisions and mechanical failure have clearly spurred the need for additional purchases beyond TEFEN.

Deep Freeze

This past year Israel looked to the Boeing Company to pick up additional Apache Ds for replacements, but has met with resistance from the Obama administration pending ‘review of Israeli actions in the recent Gaza conflict’. This embarrassing reality has been smoothed right over by a described ’likely year long negotiation & procurement process’ with Boeing, for a whopping 6 helicopters! Because we all know it takes a year plus to negotiate price and particulars on picking up additional Apache Longbows. Especially when both the Apache A, and advanced Longbow D model both already fly with the IAF.

That’s cute, but to date we have yet to see a single major purchase finalized or even a delivery on previous purchases to Israel since Obama came to office more than 7 months ago. Instead, Israel has been clearly working over time to make up the differences locally pushing forward with internal weapons development & advances, including Trophy, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, the Namer APC and now according to Yaakov Katz at the Post an upgraded Blackhawk with offensive Air to Surface missiles & cannons. Katz also mentions that the IDF is hopeful the Apache procurement efforts are nearing ‘finalization’, but mentions only upgrades of existing IAF Model As to Longbow D versions as opposed to additional replacements..

In an effort to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet, the Israel Air Force is conducting flight tests with a new version of the Black Hawk utility helicopter that has been equipped with offensive air-to-surface missile launchers.

Israel has several dozen Black Hawk helicopters – called Yanshuf – which it began receiving in the 1990s. Made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter was designed in the 1970s as a utility tactical transport aircraft for the United States Air Force. The helicopter can carry a squad of a dozen troops with equipment or alternatively carry over one ton of equipment. The US has a variant of the Black Hawk that is used for special operations and is equipped with Hellfire missiles, an automatic cannon as well as 70mm rockets.

The arming of the Black Hawk is being done jointly by the IAF, Sikorsky and several local defense contractors. One of the helicopters has already successfully test-fired an air-to-surface missile. The helicopter has also been equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that sits under the aircraft’s belly.

The IAF, sources said, does not plan at this stage to equip all of its Black Hawk helicopters with offensive capabilities but is conducting the tests to see if the possibility exists should a decision to do so be made in the future. At the same time, the IAF is close to finalizing negotiations with Boeing to upgrade at least six additional Apache attack helicopters in an effort to bolster the air support the IAF is able to provide ground forces in future operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. [...]

Contingency

Yeah, we’re not planning on equipping many dozens of Blackhawks for ‘PaveLow’ type capabilities just yet, but should ‘unforseen circumstances’ call for it, oh like say inability to procure additional US attack helicopters & weapons in general arise we need to be prepared to bolster IAF capabilities.

You just never know what kind of unfriendly atmosphere may prevail in Washington in the ‘future’. Not under this administration per say which is VERY friendly (Obama & CO love Israel, just ask US Jewish Democrats), but in the ‘future’ – Or say after flattening the Iranian nuclear program.

After all it’s not as if delaying these helicopters affects that in any way, seeing as we employ them against Hamas & Hezbollah where tensions are sure to flare should we defend ourselves by taking on Iran. It would be presumptuous to claim that the Obama admin is trying to tie Israel’s hands every way it can from derailing the US appeasement (I meant engagement) efforts.

The US MH-53 PaveLow, MH60L Attack Blackhawk & HH-60 Pave Hawk

Whenever you see US Blackhawks in the movies, you are more often than not likely seeing a Pave or Attack variant for ‘cool effect’ (MH60L). They are a lot meaner looking and jacked up with weapons, stubby wings, sensors & the like. Sometimes you’ll also see the massive US special forces Pave Low choppers, which are based on the much bigger Sikorsky SeaStallion Helicopters  – The workshorse of the US Navy. Sadly, the US Special Forces PaveLow program with the bigger Sikorskys has now been cancelled & replaced by the controversial US Osprey. Leaving the smaller attack Blackhawks like the MH60L & HH-60 Pave Hawks as mainstays for US Special Forces operations.

MH-60L Defensive Armed Penetrators - US Attack BlackHawks courtesy of SpecialOperations.com

MH-60L Defensive Armed Penetrators - US Attack BlackHawks courtesy of SpecialOperations.com

The new IAF variant & the Colombian AH-60 Arpia III

All these attack choppers and variants sporting ‘Pave’ monikers refer to advanced sensor packages like night time FLIR & radars which produce the green / night time low light effect commonly seen.

It is interesting to note that Israel already has experience outfitting US Blackhawks for offensive capabilities. One of the US Blackhawk export variants developed specifically with Israel for the Colombian Armed Forces sports electronics & sensors developed by Elbit Systems Israel, it’s known as the AH-60L Arpia III and is equippped with FLIR, machine guns, sensors packages & rocket pods – Jointly produced by Sikorsky & Elbit Israel.

The Joint US / Israeli developed Arpia III Attack Blackhawk for Colombian Forces; Used in counter terror & anti-narcotic operations against such notables as FARC Terrorists

The Joint US / Israeli developed Arpia III Attack Blackhawk for Colombian Forces; Used in counter terror & anti-narcotic operations against such notables as FARC Terrorists

It is of high likelyhood the new upgraded IAF Blackhawks will be heavily based on this variant, only with additional Israeli armaments to complement the Israeli Elbit electronics & sensor packages. The Arpia can carry US ‘fire & forget’ anti-tank Hellfire Missiles, however the Colombians do not have access to this weapon. Israel on the other hand delivers plenty of ‘Hellfire’ as required, notably in the airborne chopper based liquidation of terrorists.

*Update Note: I didn’t mention that Israel also flies a large number of CH-53D Sea Stallion variants (like the cancelled Pave Low described above). We call them Yasurs and they are used primarily as lift & troop tansports. They are undergoing a new modernization program called Yasur-2025 & can also be armed with missiles for attack roles.

Stalwart Allies: Obama Admin Has Frozen Arms Sales; No More Apache Longbows for Israel?

‘Words must mean something..’

The luster is off, many of my more elite fellow bloggers on US / Israeli relations are coming to grips with the unfriendly atmosphere now prevailing in what President Obama just yesterday termed a ‘stalwart alliance’ between Israel & the US. Blah blah blah, just words. This President is a talker all right, on the topic of whether or not he’s a doer however it is becoming ever more clear that he reserves action only for Israel, everyone else gets a free pass.

Obama Strikes Again – Requests for replacement choppers in limbo

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has blocked Israel’s request for advanced U.S.-origin attack helicopters.

Government sources said the administration has held up Israel’s request for the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The sources said the request was undergoing an interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. [...]

Yeah, we know. Drastically reduced cooperation, ignoring existential threats, reaching out to America’s enemies at the expense of her allies. All part of the pressure gambit to wring concessions out of Israel to pay off the Muslim outreach program, which so far appears to be the only thing (other than spending trillions of dollars of debt) the President seems to actually care about.

JSF / F15SE / Apache Longbow – What’s next?

IDF Apaches in formation

IDF Apaches in formation

The list of off limits hardware is growing, now the Apache Longbows have been added despite the fact Israel already flies them. Since most of the F35 JSF is already off limits to us, the new Boeing F15SE has been sought as a possible option by Israel  – But that is also seemingly not in the cards. The F15SE was designed by Boeing specifically for export because it has no slot in US defense plans since its missions are already covered by other platforms, it is an upgrade path for international customers flying Eagles. Which makes statements by the Administration to the effect that the F15SE is not cleared for ‘foreign military sales’ curious indeed..

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has imposed obstacles on Israeli efforts to procure U.S.-origin fighter-jets.

Administration sources said the White House has drafted measures that could prevent Israel and other non-NATO allies from procuring U.S. fighter-jets, including the F-35. They said the administration would require that Israel obtain special permission from the Defense Department and State Department to acquire the Joint Strike Fighter. The administration has also been resisting Israeli requests for technical data on the new F-15SE fighter-jet. [...]

The sources said the State Department has been delaying Israeli requests for pre-export licenses required for an examination of the new generation F-15.

The sources said the administration has not approved the new F-15 for the Foreign Military Sales program. They said this could prevent Israel from using U.S. military aid to purchase the aircraft from Boeing. “This is a legal issue,” a source said. “The F-15SE might not qualify for FMS.”

Stalwart allies. We are not even allowed to evaluate the Boeing fighter! Boeing must be thrilled with the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts so far since the Apaches & F-15s are part of the company’s stable of military hardware. I’m still wrestling with how the math for this works but I’m guessing Robert Gibbs will soon tell us that halting all these sales from Boeing to Israel is good for the company’s bottom line in the recession and will ‘create jobs’.

The noose is around Israel’s neck and is tightening while Obama courts and appeases his one true love, the Arabs & the Palestinians and every dictator, socialist, and isolated rogue regime on the planet. This is change all right, everything else is ‘just words’.

Thanks to Ace, Moe Lane and others for the links – more at the memeo.

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