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Friday, June 06, 2008

Israel to buy F-22 Raptor?

For some time now, Israel has been seeking to buy the F-22 Raptor (pictured) from the United States. The Raptor is a stealth bomber, that would allow the IAF to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities without drawing enemy fire. Now, one of the obstacles to Israel purchasing the Raptor has apparently been removed.
"I'm a strong supporter of Israel getting all the material and equipment they need," said Berman, a California Democrat who assumed the chairmanship [of the House Foreign Affairs Committee] after the death of Tom Lantos earlier this year. In terms of dropping the ban on F-22 sales, he said, "I certainly would look at it."

Berman, who visited Israel last month, noted that the House recently passed a bill to strengthen Israel's qualitative military edge in any US arms sales, explaining, "We're trying to lay a foundation for a tougher-minded evaluation of what assistance Israel needs."

That legislation needs to pass in the US Senate before it can be signed into law. And any effort by Berman to drop the ban on sales of the F-22 - described in the past as based on protecting the US from the transfer of technology to the wrong actors - would have to be matched in the Senate. Still, as a leading figure in the House on foreign issues, Berman would be a key player on moving such a priority forward.
JPost analyst Yaakov Katz explains why the Raptor could make an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities a reality.
Imagine this: Ten fighter jets take off from a base in northern Israel, fly over Jordan, Iraq and into Iran to bomb air-defense missile systems, radar stations and nuclear facilities. They then leave Iranian airspace safely without sustaining any enemy fire.

Sounds implausible? If the IAF has its way, the possibility will become realistic in the near future.

The key is the F-22 single-seater, double-engine aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. Through a combination of its shape, composite materials, color and other integrated systems, it can fly in enemy airspace without being detected.


To date, the US government has clamped an embargo on the sale of the aircraft to foreign countries. But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly raised the issue with President George Bush in Washington. Other talks have taken place in recent months at the Defense Ministry-Pentagon level.

According to defense sources, the Pentagon might be inclined to change its mind and allow a sale to Israel, particularly in light of the looming nuclear threat from Iran.

"The prospect of a squadron of stealth-enabled F-22s flying undetected into Iran, opening the internal compartments that carry their missiles and dropping them into the nuclear sites - that is one piece of deterrence!" said a source close to the IAF.

The F-22 would be used in an air strike to first blow out enemy air defense systems and radar stations and to create "clear skies" for the rest of the IAF's fleet of F-15 and F-16 bombers.

Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy, who stepped down as IAF commander last month, admitted on several occasions that given the opportunity, Israel would buy the F-22, no matter the $150 million per-unit price tag. Shkedy's principle was that Israel always needs to have the most-advanced and most-superior military platforms.


If Congress decided to allow foreign sales, the US would not be able to sell the plane just to Israel. It would likely have to sell to additional allies and could face a complex dilemma if and when Saudi Arabia asked to buy the plane.

If the ban is lifted in the coming months, Israel could potentially receive the plane within the next two years, according to Yiftah Shapir, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies and author of its annual Middle East Military Balance Report. By contrast, Israel is set to receive the stealth JSF in 2014, or 2013 at the earliest.

"The F-22 would provide Israel with a new level of air dominance," Shapir said. "It is questionable whether Israel really needs it, but it would certainly contribute to IAF capabilities in face of the Iranian threat."
That's very nice, but unfortunately, it is likely that Israel - or the United States - will have to do something about Iran's burgeoning nuclear capability long before two years from now. I'll be happy to see our government buy the Raptor, but we need another answer for Iran long before 2010.


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