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Awesome: Obama Shifts MidEast Balance of Power Away From Israel

Obama Triples US Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia. Just like the Deficit!!

A funny thing happened along the way to ‘containing’ Iran. Israel lost its historic military edge in the Middle East, and Obama tripled the Bush arms commitment to Saudi Arabia. Haha, the joke it appears is on us. In the last year of the Bush administration the US announced 3 major arms packages.

  1. 10 year, 30 Billion dollar arms commitment to Israel.
  2. 10 year, 20 Billion arms sale package to Saudi Arabia
  3. Multi billion dollar arms sale package to US Gulf allies.

Last year, I wrote that per capita (dollars spent per person) Israel was the largest defense spender on the planet. However, in raw dollar numbers Saudi Arabia was doubling us. According to the Economist, in 2009 Israel spent approximately 16 billion dollars on arms, roughly 3 billion of it coming from US military aid. Compared to the Saudis who spent an alarming 38 Billion dollars on weapons.

Alarm bells went off

Early on in the Obama administration Israel voiced serious concerns to the US at the highest levels. Commitments to Israel regarding arms packages had been broken, and top of the line advanced US weapons were being sold to Saudi Arabia, including guided weapons, smart bombs, and advanced fighter aircraft as part of their 20 billion dollar package under Bush.

Senior sources in the current U.S. administration, and senior officials at the foreign and defense ministries in Israel, have suggested that during the last year of the Bush administration the U.S. sold advanced military equipment to moderate Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The Americans justified the arms sales with the need to bolster these countries against the perceived threat posed by Iran.

In an address before the National Jewish Democratic Council, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, commented on the matter. “We discovered that the qualitative edge of the IDF has been eroded,” Oren said. “We came to the Obama administration and said: ‘Listen, we have a problem.’”

According to Oren the response of the Obama administration was positive and immediate. “They said they are going to deal with this matter and ensure that the qualitative edge of the IDF is preserved,” he said. “Since then we have embarked on a dialog [on preserving the IDF's qualitative edge].” [...]

The results?

The Obama administration and democrats tried to make hay implying that Bush was not Israel’s friend, rather Obama is. They were going to fix this. This week it all came gushing out. Today Israel announced it was agreeing to pick up approximately 20 F35 JSF fighter from the US in a 3 billion dollar deal, in order to ostensibly ‘maintain our qualitative edge’.

At the same time, last week the Saudi’s were reported to have agreed to purchasing 84 new F15 fighters from the US in a 30 billion dollar arms deal. As the big fix to allay Israel, Obama had agreed to keep some of the long range weaponry destined to the Saudis out of their deal..

Wait for it.. Today the other shoe dropped.

The Saudi deal swelled, doubling to 60 BILLION DOLLARS over the next 10 years. Throwing in on top of the 84 F15s, an additional 130+ attack helicopters – Some 60 of them advanced Apache gunships, plus US Blackhawks. This will bring the Saudi air-force well above the 200 mark for advanced F15s, and dwarf Israel’s attack helicopter fleet by a factor of about 3.

Obama came through all right..

He in theory cut some of the munitions & systems going to the Saudis, and instead TRIPLED the 20 billion dollar Bush commitment turning it into a 60 billion dollar arms orgy.

One that will see Israel numbers wise outgunned, outspent, and in theory possibly outmatched in the next 15 years. Shifting the balance of power in the Middle East, a balance which was already tilting of late away from Israel toward Iran & terrorists.

Containing Iran is costing us dearly indeed, and they have not even developed the nuclear weapons yet.

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.

Air Supremacy: Lockheed F35, Boeing F15SE in Combat for the Skies Over Israel

F35i Teething problems

Unfortunately for Lockheed, and Israel the F35 story still has no happy ending. The plane is over budget by tens of millions per aircraft, late, overshadowed by its more specialty capable yet now canceled big brother (F-22), and crucially for Israel -  Is sealed off electronically.

Without the ability to access internal computers and replace key systems with Israeli variants, for which IAF weaponry & training are already in place it has become tough to justify outlaying so much money for stealth capability. As a result the heat is on so to speak here in Israel, and Boeing is making the big push for a huge interim win, with the F15SE..

[...] Meanwhile, Israel’s negotiations with the U.S. administration and Lockheed are expected to end with a deal early next year. For now, the gaps between the two sides are significant.

There are a number of issues in addition to the cost of the F-35, including disagreement over Israel’s request for modifications in equipping the aircraft with locally produced electronics, the plane’s relatively short range and limited bomb capacity, and the costs for establishing a separate maintenance infrastructure for the aircraft.

Another major issue is the projected delivery schedule, with 2014 being the earliest date the F-35 would arrive in Israel, and 2016 the date for the first operational squadron.

In comparison, some aspects of the Silent Eagle package make it a promising possibility. Boeing is talking about a $100 million price tag per aircraft, a significantly longer range than the F-35, and a maintenance infrastructure that could be based on the one for Israel’s F-15 fleet. Delivery may begin by 2012. [...]

The Future Is Now?

Clearly the competition is fierce for multi billion dollar contracts, my last blog about the topic generated interested visits from both companies. Both these export aircraft are new on the market and each would benefit greatly being fielded by the Israeli Air Force. Personally, I believe we may see in the end both aircraft do just that. The original tender was for a possible 75 JSF aircraft. Israel could in theory push out the JSF procurement to a later date, since arrival dates are so far out in any case and put together a squadron starting around 2018-19, or even into the next decade. By then the US would likely not waste everyone’s time with computer issues, the JSF would have seen some longer term testing, and the fighter will have been improved.

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled March 17th, 2009

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled March 17th, 2009

 In the interim, 25 additional F15-SEs could dovetail nicely into the established maintenance, training and equipment pipeline more quickly & cheaply. We need solutions in the near term. The F35 has shorter range, and less room for weapons. These delivery dates of 2016 are eons away. When Iran went Islamic Fundamentalist, the Shah’s brand new F-16 order was canceled. Israel took over the procurement and the new F-16s first saw action taking out the Osirak Iraqi nuclear reactor a few short months later.

This F-35 test fighter seen over Texas displays the JSF program national flags of those countries participating. Israel is not one of them, relegated to a more minor partner. It remains to be seen whether or not the Star of David will be painted an any F35s any time soon..

This F-35 test fighter seen over Texas displays the JSF program national flags of those countries participating. Israel is not one of them, relegated to a more minor partner. It remains to be seen whether or not the Star of David will be painted on any F35s any time soon..

No Strike For You! 

That does not appear to be the legacy of the F35 to share. 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. Currently, the F35 doesn’t allow us to enter crucial systems, which makes us dependent all the more on the USA – We have seen how this type of disastrous dependence can now affect our nation’s very ability to field these weapons and defend ourselves, most recently under President Obama. This is akin to buying a car from the Obama owned General Motors and he gets to keep the keys, deciding when we are allowed to drive and when not.

Today everyone is ‘Smart Shopping’

This new encroachment style is not something we should encourage, least of all in our weapons systems - stealth or no stealth. We need a fighter that has the range, and systems that can defend us from Iran. I know according to the Obama school of thought this may be sometime in 2017.. Unfortunately President Obama is wrong.  Those are Israel’s needs, they are not currently focused on 2017, with limited access to systems yet! I think we should fill them today and let the JSF wait for tomorrow, pick up later short range VTOL versions in greater quantity perhaps with our longer arm strike and interceptor needs hopefully filled.

In the mean time, we have seen MIG 29s appear, MIG 31s disappear, and now the F35 & F15SE are also in the mix over our skies. Apparently, if you enjoy jet fighter intrigue this is the place to be.

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