The US Government is stepping up pressure on the Israeli Government to cancel a contract to supply airborne early warning (AEW) systems to China by unofficially slowing down the approval procedures between Washington and Tel Aviv for a variety of defence-related programmes, claim Israeli sources.

"The sanctions are not official but suddenly everything is by the book. We feel that they have decided to teach us a lesson," a senior Israeli industry source says.

The Israeli Government has been under heavy pressure to withdraw from an agreement to supply Elta Phalcon AEW systems to China. The latter has a requirement for a total of four AEW systems worth around $1 billion, although an existing contract covers only one platform.

The measures are said to have affected the approval of joint research and development programmes and export licenses for Israeli-built weapon systems with US content. "We asked in Washington but everybody denied it. In everyday practice it looks like a very well orchestrated offensive" says the source.

Israel Aircraft Industries is test flying the first Russian-built Beriev A-50 (modified Ilyushin Il-76) while Elta - an IAI subsidiary - continues to equip the aircraft with Phalcon.

Source: Flight International