By ARIE EGOZI
Not all arms deals in the world are only in the hands of the generals. Politicians play a growing role in many such deals and Israel is part of this “trend” .
Only recently , the word went out from Washington about a deal to supply the Israeli air force (IAF) with V-22 tilt rotor aircraft and KC-135 aerial tankers.
When the deal was announced , it was accompanied with a declaration that it is part of a larger one which includes the sale of advanced weapon systems to Israel , Saudi Arabia and the UAE. That what is called “regional politics”
The deal was designed “not just to boost Israel’s capabilities, but also to boost the capabilities of our Persian Gulf partners so they, too, would be able to address the Iranian threat — and also provide a greater network of coordinated assets around the region to handle a range of contingencies,” According to the official words that came from Washington .
But when you look behind the diplomatic scene , things look a little or rather a lot different. The Israel defence budget is stretched to a tear point. I’m not sure that the V-22 and the KC-135 are top priorities for the IAF.
The force has evaluated the V-22 in many test flights in the u.s and was impressed. Pilots love new exotic platforms.
The final report was in favor of purchasing “a number” of V-22′s for missions defined as “special operations”. But so it seems the politicians are those who moved the V-22 and the KC-135 up in the priority ladder.
Sources in the IAF say that a “limited” number of V-22 without any certainty about follow on deals in the coming years , is “to put the money that is not available in the wrong place”
The KC-135 will replace the converted 707′S currently used by the IAF for aerial refueling.
What the IAF really needs is a real substitute fo the CH-53. This “workhorse” set high standards in the IAF and many in the force do not think that the V-22 is capable of performing the same missions.
The KC-135 if they are supplied will be from the u.s airforce’s inventory. The IAF now uses some upgraded 707′s and sources in the force say that they are fully qualified to support any long range operation of Israel.
So the politicians got their headlines and maybe they enabled them to achieve targets in their scope. The question is whether this fully answers the operational needs of the end user There ar some strong indications that it’s not.