Reports: Israel Frozen out of F-35 Development
Israeli defense industry executives are reporting that the U.S. has frozen Israel out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development of a program as punishment for its military cooperation with China, including its work on Harpy anti-radar attack UAVs acquired by China from state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries in 1994. Israeli Defense Ministry officials refused to confirm the report, noting only that they were in dialogue and hoped that “within its framework understandings will be reached soon.”
In recent weeks the White House has warned European countries not to lift a boycott on China arms sales, and even restricted the sale of mapping software to China developed from U.S. naval sonar technology. The Bush administration has also pressured Israel to ‘roll back’ its defense relations with China.
The Israeli Aerospace Industry (IAI) Harpy is an advanced attack UAV system that homes in on air defense radars and attacks them. Launched from a ground vehicle or surface warship far away from the battle zone, the Harpy UAV can detect, attack and destroy radar emitters in all-weather conditions, day/night over a distance of 500km. Once an enemy radar is detected and verified, the UAV transitions into a near vertical dive and destroy the target with its high explosive warhead. The Harpy UAV is also currently in service with Israel, India, Korea, and Turkey.
China reportedly acquired an unknown number of Harpys in 1994. Western intelligence first identified Harpy UAVs in service with the PLA in the joint PLA exercise held near the Taiwan Strait in 2004. Back in December 2004, Pentagon Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Doug Feith reportedly demanded the resignation of retired Maj. Gen. Amos Yaron, the widely respected and longtime director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Defence. According to the reports, Feith was ‘outraged’ that the USA was not informed the UAV sale to China in 1994.
In summer 2004, tension rose again when some of China’s Harpys were sent back to Israel – whether for routine maintenance or upgrades is a matter of some dispute. The Pentagon has already demanded that Israel not deliver these UAVs back to China, even though they are properties of the PRC. [This demand was eventually complied with.]
Earlier this year, the Chinese government passed a resolution authorizing the use of force if Taiwan declares itself an independent state. The self-governing island split from China at the end of a protracted civil war in 1949.
The U.S. Air Force plans to take delivery of the first operational F-35s in 2008.
October 2005: Israel is prohibited from upgrading or refurbishing Venezuela’s F-16 fighters, canceling a $100 million deal.
August 2005: An agreement covering Israeli arms export restrictions got the exclusion lifted – albeit on a conditional basis that speaks eloquently to the current state of the relationship.
May 2005: UAVs Blog links an article that reports:
“A compromise has been reached with the US over the Harpy anti-radar unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), produced by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI), which were sold to China. The Harpies China sent to IAI for what was called “repairs”, will not be upgraded, while the US has withdrawn its demand that Israel confiscate them… Sources in Washington said that following the Harpy compromise, technological cooperation in the JSF program would resume. They added that an announcement to this effect was possible during Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz’s upcoming visit to Washington in July.”
- This excellent analysis from the Jamestown Foundation re: the longer-term implications for the Israeli defense industry.
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Israelis: U.S. derailed jet development
- China Defense Today News: Israel-China UAV Deal Provokes Pentagon
- Official F-35 Program Site
- Popular Mechanics May/02: Flexible Flyer
- DID – F136 potential second engine for JSF
- DID – GAO Releases Study of F-22, F-35 Programs