March 23, 2003

Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafael designed the Litening Targeting Pods used to fire precision weapons from the Marines’ AV-8B Harrier jet, seen here taking off in the Persian Gulf.Even though Israel is not actively participating in the coalition against Iraq at the request of the United States, Israeli technology and weaponry is making its presence felt on the front lines.

After decades of U.S. military aid and defense cooperation, Israel’s technology and components permeate the U.S. military – from the Army’s Hunter drones to the targeting systems on the U.S. Marines’ Harrier jets to the fuel tanks on its F-15 fighters.

“We’ll be shooting down some (French) Mirage 3s, I think, if the Iraqis ever come up. We may shoot them with an Israeli missile, from a U.S. warplane,” Joel Johnson, spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association, a Washington-based industry lobby, told the Associated Press.

According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, Israel emerged last year as the world’s No. 3 arms and military services exporter – ahead of even Russia’s massive arms industry,
It would be hard to find a modern military that manages without technology developed by Israeli weapons industry.

“Israel has great expertise in developing certain smart weapons, or laser guided weapons which are highly accurate. They make these weapons for the IDF, and they are also sold to the U.S., among other countries,” according to Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of Bar-Ilan University’s Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation.

Responding to an Iraqi television broadcast over the weekend that displayed what it claimed was an Israeli missile that had been fired from an American plane – the missile bore the inscription “IMI Jerusalem,” where IMI stands for Israel Military Industries ? Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said at Sunday’s government cabinet meeting IMI has supplied the American fleet with decoy missiles, which are used to confuse antiaircraft guns.

According to Yiftah Shapir of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, the fact that Israel’s weaponry has found a place inside the mighty U.S. military points to the country’s engineering prowess – and its status as a favorite ally.

The U.S.-Israeli friendship “helps to a certain extent, but when it comes to commercial competition, these sentiments are put aside,” Shapir told AP. “These are highly advanced and the price is highly competitive.”

Iraqi forces might be on the receiving end of Israeli technology in several scenarios.
A B-52 bomber could fire Popeye air-to-surface missiles — dubbed AGM-142 by the U.S. Air Force — at ground targets. The precision-guided Popeyes were designed by Rafael, a company partially owned by the government of Israel.

“The Popeye is famous for being touted as the missile that could be directed through the window of an apartment building,” Steinberg told Israel21c. “The IDF has been using these weapons to target Palestinian terror leaders during the last two and half years, and according to Steinberg, it’s likely they’re now being used by the US army.”

Other Israeli-designed weaponry in the service of the U.S. army includes the Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles. Its cousin, the Pioneer, is being used by the U.S. Marines to scout Iraqi defenses. Both originated in the design labs of Israel Aircraft Industries, the country’s largest private company.

The Hunter dropped anti-tank munitions in recent U.S. tests, and could be used alongside the Air Force’s armed Predator missile-firing drone in a ground attack role.

Some of the Army’s Bradley fighting vehicles are guided by on-board computers supplied by a subsidiary of Israel’s Elbit Systems, Shapir said. U.S. troops riding in the Bradleys might also be protected by armor from Rafael, Lova Drori, Rafael’s director of international marketing, told AP.

Rafael is also the designer of the Litening Targeting Pods used to fire precision weapons from the Marines’ AV-8B Harrier jet, as well as F-15s and F-16s flown by the Air Force Reserves and Army National Guard, Drori said.

Israel also makes or designs multiple rocket launchers, mortars, laser target designators for the Army’s Comanche helicopter and other components, Shapir said.
Much of the equipment is manufactured in the United States by subsidiaries of Israeli companies, or through joint ventures with U.S. weapons manufacturers.

According to Jane’s, Israel made more than $3.5 billion in arms sales last year, roughly equal to Russia’s massive arms export industry. Only the United States and Britain sold more, Jane’s reported.

“In the grand scheme of things, the Israeli contribution is small but significant,” summed up Steinberg. “It’s a reflection on Israel’s technical capabilities and to some degree, its close alliance with the United States. But it would be incorrect to say that Israel is contributing to the war against Iraq by specifically providing weaponry. These weapons would have been used in Afghanistan or Kosovo too.”

(Based on an article by the Associated Press)

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