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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

US to phase out F-22, may stop funding Arrow 3

As part of a budget retrenchment in American military spending, the United States is set to phase out the F-22 Raptor (pictured), a plane that Israel has long coveted but has not been allowed to purchase, and to stop funding the development of Israel's Arrow 3 anti-missile system.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday that the Pentagon plans to end production of the F-22 Raptor, a top-of-the-line stealth aircraft that Israel has long coveted.

At the same time, Gates said he would nearly double the allocation to $11.2 billion for the F-35 Lightning II, another stealth plane that Israel would like to acquire, as part of a budget plan he will be taking to US President Barack Obama. Obama is expected to review the budget and submit his own version for Congressional approval in early May.

Gates's announcement, part of what he termed a holistic strategic shift in the Defense Department's priorities, decreases the likelihood that Israel would ever be able to obtain the F-22, foreign sales of which are currently banned by Congress.

Some Israeli defense officials are hoping that the end of US orders for the plane will provide enough pressure that Congress - which doesn't want to lose the thousands of jobs the airplane's production provides - will reverse the ban on foreign exports.

But Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said that while Lockheed Martin would be sure to make that argument, he would expect that with the US ending its program, the jet manufacturer would start to shut down production.

"It makes it very unlikely that production will get to the point of exports," he assessed of possible sales to allies like Israel and Japan, who also would like the technologically advanced plane. "To the extent that they had expectations, this represents a setback."
While the F-35 does not have a ban on foreign exports, it may be 'years' before it is ready for sale, leaving Israel with a gap period in which it will have to make do with older planes. And as some of you may recall, Israel has been having an argument with the US in recent months over the incorporation of Israeli technologies into the F-35's that Israel wishes to purchase.

As to the Arrow 3,
The secretary's proposal also increased funds for several missile defense programs, including $700 million for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Standard Missile 3 programs, as well as $200m. to convert six more Aegis Combat System ships to provide ballistic missile defense capabilities.

Israel is also hoping that the US will decide to spend upwards of $150m. on the Arrow 3 missile defense system, jointly manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing in the US, but it was not immediately clear whether the budget would include the expenditure.

The US could decide to help fund that venture alongside the Aegis and THAAD, or simply offer the latter instead. Both are developed by Lockheed Martin but deemed unpractical for ballistic missile threats Israel is facing primarily from Iran and Syria by Israeli defense officials.

Even if the Obama administration doesn't include Arrow funding in the budget it gives Congress in May, the US House or Senate might decide to put in funding anyway. It is common for the legislature to add money for Israelis projects later in the appropriations process.

Defense officials said Monday that even if the Pentagon decided to cut the funding for the Arrow 3, it was possible the Defense Ministry would decide to continue developing the project independently and without US financial aid.

The THAAD and Aegis are also far more expensive than the Arrow, one official said, noting that each Aegis interceptor costs $12m. compared to the $1.5m. it costs for the Arrow missile.

The officials speculated that the Arrow would continue to be funded by the Pentagon since it was a key program for Boeing.
My guess is that if the US doesn't fund it, Israel will continue to fund the Arrow 3, but it may not do so at the same level that the US funding provided. No one is looking to lay off more engineers here.


Sorry, I meant to link also to this letter sent by a bi-partisan group of Senators that, among other things, decries any possible cutbacks in the Arrow 3 program. Here's part of it:
In the Middle East, we continue to develop missile defense technology in close partnership with Israel. As you know, the State of Israel faces a uniquely pressing threat due to Iran’s ballistic missile program and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. In response, we have long cooperated with Israel to develop the Arrow family of missile interceptors and are now working together on the David’s Sling missile defense system to defeat medium range rockets. These are critical programs that should not be abandoned.


In sum, cooperation on missile defense is now a critical component of many of our closest security partnerships around the world. We fear that cuts to the budget for missile defense could inadvertently undermine these relationships and foster the impression that the United States is an unreliable ally. Moreover, sharp cuts would leave us and our friends around the world less capable of responding to the growing ballistic missile threat.

The fact remains that our adversaries continue to invest large sums in the development of these weapons. The question is whether we respond by developing appropriate defenses against them. We therefore urge you to sustain the ability of the Missile Defense Agency and the military services to develop an integrated, layered defense against the threat of ballistic missiles to the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies.
The letter is signed by Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mark Begich (D-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

Read the whole thing.


More on the missile defense cuts, which are apparently quite an issue in the US, here.


At 7:44 PM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

When Israel has successfully implemented the various layers of their missile defense system, I wonder how long it will be before we hear the Palestinians, UN, and international leftists decry the Apartheid Shield.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

FinanceDoc, when the Israeli missile defense system is up and running, Palestinians and their supporters will decry it too. If they don't have Jews to murder how will they remain relevant? That's a good question. While the other side revels in suffering and death, the Jewish people seek to increase the quality of life for all and make it worth living more. In such a competition, I have no doubt which society will come out ahead.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Editor said...

"Gates" translates as "dhimmie" in arabic, and as "useful idiot" in Russian, and not surprisingly, also in Chinese.

(I am sure I don't have to tell you what "Obama" translates as...)


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