International military hardware deals always involve emotions. If you handle the negotiations according to the expected procedures, these emotions may be contained. But when you break the sometimes unwritten rules, you create a major problem.
Israel now faces such a problem, after selecting the Aermacchi M-346 trainer. Italy is happy. South Korea, which lost the contract, is furious and that will be translated into a loss of big contracts for the Israeli defence industries. However, the damage will be even greater.
As expected, the Israeli ministry of defence last week selected the Aermacchi M-346 as the new advanced trainer for the Israeli Air Force (IAF). The contract, to be signed soon, will include 30 aircraft.
The selection ended a long competition that down selected the M-346 and the KAI T-50.
The governments of Italy and South Korea have put a lot of pressure on to win the contract. That is because a selection by the IAF can be used to promote other contracts.
The Italians have committed themselves to purchasing a “number” of Israeli-made systems, including AEW aircraft from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Sources said that Italy made a written commitment. South Korea said that it intended to purchase different Israeli-made defence systems, but was not ready to sign an official commitment.
The wrong moves by the Israeli ministry of defence began with a very strange decision, not to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to Italy and South Korea.
That move created the first feeling of frustration in Seoul that later turned into pure anger.
The Israeli ministry of defence says that the RFP is not a must in that type of deal. That may be right if judged by lawyers, but with a country such as South Korea, the Israeli defence establishment should have been more sensitive and clever.
The outcome is very bad. The IAF will have a new advanced trainer but it is obvious that Seoul will freeze all potential deals with Israeli defence and aerospace industries.
It is true that Italy has committed itself in writing to purchase some major Israeli-made systems, but you only have to look at the world map to realise that South Korea, because of its location, has some added value.
Justice must be seen. In this case some officials forgot or decided to ignore this very important principle. Israel will pay the price.