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.
- 10 year, 30 Billion dollar arms commitment to Israel.
- 10 year, 20 Billion arms sale package to Saudi Arabia
- 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 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.
Long Range Infiltrators
A critical component of Israel’s long term TEFEN procurement program in the air involves what most would consider a fairly unglamorous transport upgrade. The Hercules class transports are more often than not looked upon as standard equipment and troop movers, a role the Hercules has been playing in numerous air forces for decades now.
Israel’s original SuperHercules C-130j procurement deal initially started in 2008, when the US Congress was notified by the Pentagon of an impending sale for up to 9 specially designed transports. Back in 2008 deliveries were expected to begin around the 2012 time frame. Haaretz now reports that there is (unconfirmed) movement this week on the transport deal – with Defense Minister Ehud Barak & PM Netanyahu having met with US defense officials..
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week absorbing the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel’s defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.
According to the deal, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts, designed by Lockheed Martin, is worth roughly a quarter billion dollars. Each aircraft costs $70 million. The aircrafts were manufactured specifically for Israeli needs, and include a large number of systems produced by Israel’s defense industry [...]
My understanding of these matters is that the Hercs would cost somewhat more, in the 100 million range mostly due to some serious upgrades above the Super Hercules’ already impressive renewed electrical & systems roster. The total package with optional aircraft over the multi-year deal was estimated to possibly reach 1.9 Billion dollars if all options were exercised.
Word was that we had asked Lockheed to equip the new Israeli transports with unique in flight air refueling capability to ‘extend their operational range’. This beyond the substantial modifications Israel has requested electronically to mate the transports with Israeli systems and electronic counter measures. These initial Hercs are clearly of the Special Operations variety designed for deep insertion & support roles for both men & matériel.
Drop & Mop
Israel has a long history of unique Hercules operational roles, the most famous being the Entebbe hostage rescue which saw Israel insert special forces all the way into Africa while taking over an international airport. If these reports are true, Israeli pressure to get this pre-Obama administration deal on track & moving would be a major coup and signal some cooperation between the IDF & Pentagon, as arms sales to Israel from the US have apparently been quite frozen on almost every level since Obama took office. Including helicopters, heavy ordinance JDAM bombs, electronics & reserve supplies of jet fuel for war contingencies.
Congress pledges support
Despite White House humiliation & Israeli arm twisting of late there is a tidal wave of congressional support to keep Israel on the cutting edge militarily, and supply us with assistance pledges built into the US Israel alliance. Just this week Nita Lowey, the powerful chairwoman of the US House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations who oversees the military & aid packages for Israel re-iterated solidly that whatever rifts may develop with the White House, the military aid would still be forthcoming..
“There is no question in my mind that the 10-year memorandum of understanding is solid,” Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the US House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said of the decade-long US aid plan under which $3 billion will be going to Israel this year. “There is strong bipartisan support for Israel in the Congress that will not falter.”
She said that continuing support is also in place when it comes to the US commitment to Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its Arab neighbors and other forms of military coordination.
“The military cooperation, the intelligence cooperation, the focus on Iran, is solid and strengthens every year,” said Lowey, who also sits on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees. [...]
With so much pressure coming out of the Obama admin these days, these displays of support & friendship are heartening to say the least. We require our ally’s help, SuperHercs & all.
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..
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?
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.
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.”
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!
Maybe we can walk to Iran?
Israel is still negotiating the endless contract for the JSF fighter, who’s sky rocketing price & endless delays are now becoming the stuff of legends.
Via the Weekly Standard we visit Aviation Week where rumors now abound of what some are calling the JSF manufacturing disaster, the fighter is now years behind due to problems and delayed flight testing. We will never see it by the 2014 time frame envisioned, which itself is two years behind what Israel had initially projected..
If February was a bad news month for the Joint Strike Fighter, with the program boss fired, a 13-month delay in test and a two-year slip in Air Force initial operational capability, look out for March. A Government Accountability Office report is rolling down the tracks, along with a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) which, as we told you in Defense Technology International a month ago, is almost certainly going to record a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach.
Meanwhile, the flight test program continues to log an all-time slow record. [...]
The Obama administration along with Sec Def Gates have nailed the F-22 coffin shut. Despite claims to the contrary and attempts to soft pedal the issue officially in Israel – Our arms purchases from the US are moving at a glacial pace. We still don’t have resolution regarding Apache Longbow attack helicopter upgrades which I maintained were frozen by the Obama administration along with access to several other platforms. It’s now been a year that we are negotiating for half a dozen chopper upgrades for a helicopter we already fly, can you say deep freeze?
All this JSF woe leaves Israel, not too mention US forces in a bit of a lurch. There’s no JSF any time soon, and interim replacement platforms are simply seemingly not even on the menu for Israel to look at (F-15SE). None of it bodes particularly well when one considers the chorus of voices ever rising that the JSF simply ain’t that great in the 1st place..
The fighter is, and has been, plagued by delays, cost overruns, spats with allies, all underscored by the fact that the JSF isn’t that great of a jet. The Russian PAK-FA, which took to the skies this month, is already purported to be a superior air-to-air platform — though it won’t be fully operational for a few years. Moscow has no problem exporting their best gear to second and third world nations, and the Russians take particular delight in providing nations hostile to U.S. interests with advanced weaponry. Considering that proclivity to sell to bad guys, we could be facing the PAK-FA in air-to-air combat in under a decade.
So will we be ready? The F-35′s long list of failures is opening up some critical planning issues, problems that could end up critically degrading America’s abilities to fight and win wars a few miles down the road. The Obama administration is taking a colossal risk in canceling the F-22 program and sticking all their eggs in the Joint Strike Fighter basket. [...]
Did we screw the pooch on this one?
Israel faces much of the same, only we are more boxed in. We don’t have the minimum allocation of F-22s the USA has in stock & on order before the program runs its course. We may be looking at a few decades where our new superiority fighter (If it is ever delivered) is seemingly inferior to what our enemies can buy on the open market. That would be disastrous. The Obama administration maintains its claim that Israel’s military superiority is a top priority, while selling everything we have to the Gulf like it is going out of style.. In parallel we are being limited on purchases, a perfect storm.
One day we might have to call in the Cavalry
Americans who dislike Israel often claim they don’t want America fighting our wars for us. To date that has never been the case, and haters have just been blowing off steam. Going forward however, if we can’t get our hands on the best tech with the ability to customize it to our needs – Precisely the scenario now unfolding with the JSF contract, that may very well change. A situation which is just as unacceptable to us as it is to America.
It is dangerous entrusting our security to others, and only more so entrusting it to President Obama – His priorities simply lie elsewhere. Unfortunately for us, we sleep in the bed the American voters made.