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Israel’s Air Force is set to decide in coming months on purchasing F-15IA fighter.
The United States Air Force is set to request funds to purchase new advanced F-15X fighter jets from defense giant Boeing along with Lockheed Martin’s stealth F-35 fighter jets, a similar make-up to what the Israeli Air Force is leaning towards.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the USAF is set to request funds to purchase eight F-15X in the fiscal 2020 budget, the first of a potential 80 jets to be purchased over the next five years to make a total of three squadrons of 24 planes each with eight spares.
The F-15X – which would be a variation of the jets Boeing has sold to Qatar – will come in two versions, a single seat F-15CX and a twin seat F-15EX and be able to carry heavier loads of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles than the current F-15s.
The price of the F-15X, according to Bloomberg, has been offered by Boeing for $80 million per plane while the F-35 is estimated to cost $89m. each with a goal of $80m. per aircraft by 2020.
With a need to keep ahead of increased threats in the Middle East, the Israeli Air Force is set to decide within the coming months to place orders on several new aircraft to upgrade its aging squadrons.
The deal which the IAF and Defense Ministry are now considering is one of the largest defense deals in Israel’s history with Boeing and according to some reports is worth a combined $11 billion and include a fleet of F-15IA (an acronym for Israel Advanced) fighter jets, Chinook transport helicopters along with V-22 tiltrotor aircraft as well as the KC-46 aerial refueling tankers.
Israel’s Air Force has already received 14 F-35I “Adir” stealth fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin and is expected to receive a total of 50 to make two full squadrons by 2024. The IAF is also now considering whether to purchase an additional 25 F-35s to give The Jewish State a total of 75 stealth fighter jets.
While it is considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter jet, the stealth aircraft is limited in the weapons they are able to carry as they have to be stored in internal munition boxes in order to maintain a low radar signature.
And in parallel to the fifth-generation aircrafts, the IAF needs to retain its qualitative military edge and modernize an essential squadron of its fighter fleet. Most of the IAF’s F-15s are over 30 years old with the majority acquired in the second half of the 1970s and while a more advanced squadron of the F-15, the F-15I arrived in Israel in the 1990s.
The F-15IA model that the IAF is leaning towards purchasing is one of the most advanced and cost-effective fighter planes ever to be built, with various upgrades to the earlier models such as more efficient engines and fly-by-wire avionics-which is considered the biggest change to the jet in 20 years.
With the fly-by-wire avionics the jet has a 25% decrease in operating cost per flight hour compared to the F-15I and reduced maintenance costs. With advanced sensors and displays with high reliability, fewer aircraft would be also be required to accomplish most missions.
Boeing has designed its wings to be able to use two additional outboard stations to carry a payload of some 13,380 kilos such as 12 air-to-air as well as 15 air-to-ground or air-to-maritime strike weapons which are able to engage multiple targets simultaneously.
While the F-35I has advantages such as intelligence gathering, the F-15IA’s assets closely match most missions carried out by the IAF such as dealing with enemy missile launch sites or terror targets on its northern or southern borders.
Officials believe that a force mix of F-35I Adirs along with a squadron of F-15IA would allow Israel to carry out a number of complex operations, including any possible confrontation with Iran on its borders.
Hezbollah continues to violate Lebanon’s policy of noninvolvement in regional conflicts by fighting in “at least three countries” and continues to make its own “national security decisions,” U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard tells Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.
The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon expressed concerns Tuesday over Hezbollah’s growing role in the country’s new cabinet, saying it does not contribute to stability.
Iran-backed Hezbollah, which also takes part in elections, has named a health minister and two other posts in Lebanon’s cabinet. U.S. officials have called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s new government to ensure the terrorist group does not receive support from public resources.
At a meeting with Hariri on Tuesday, Ambassador Elizabeth Richard said Hezbollah continues to violate Lebanon’s policy of noninvolvement in regional conflicts by fighting in “at least three countries.” She was apparently referring to Syria, where the group fights alongside the Bashar Assad regime, Iraq and Yemen, where Iran supports local armed groups.
“I was also very frank with the prime minister about U.S. concern over the growing role in the cabinet of an organization that continues to maintain a militia that is not under the control of the government,” Richard told reporters after the meeting.
She added that Hezbollah continues to make its own “national security decisions” that “endanger the rest of the country.”
The U.S. views Hezbollah as a terrorist group, but is a strong supporter of Lebanon’s national army, supplying it with arms worth hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years. Last week, the American Embassy said the U.S. had delivered laser-guided rockets valued at more than $16 million to the Lebanese army.
Richard said last year alone, the United States provided more than $825 million in assistance, an increase from the year before. She said the U.S. has also supported education and development programs to help Lebanese communities “deal with the unprecedented demands placed on them when their Syrian neighbors fled.”
Lebanon is home to about a million Syrian refugees – a quarter of the tiny Mediterranean country’s population – putting pressure on its crumbling infrastructure.
Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Saleh Gharib briefed President Michel Aoun and Hariri on Tuesday about his visit to Syria the previous day, telling reporters that Syrian officials “were very positive and showed interest in facilitating” refugees’ return.
Dramatic move means PA is giving up $222 million every month, up to a third of its budget, putting it in danger of collapse
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected all tax revenue payments transferred to the PA by Israel, in response to Jerusalem withholding over $138 million of the amount over Ramallah’s payouts to Palestinian attackers and their families.
The dramatic move means the PA is rejecting a large portion of its monthly income, which could lead to its financial collapse. Palestinian officials said Israel currently collects and transfers NIS 803,282,580 ($222 million) to the PA every month, Reuters reported.
Israel’s security cabinet on Sunday approved withholding NIS 502,697,000 ($138 million) from a year’s worth of taxes that Israel is slated to collect on the PA’s behalf.
The security cabinet’s decision was an effort to start implementing a new law that permits Israel to withhold tax money due Ramallah over payments it makes to security prisoners held by Israel and the families of slain attackers, including terrorists.
“We refuse to receive all of the tax funds. We don’t want them. Leave them over with them,” Abbas told a delegation of US Congress members and the dovish Jewish organization J Street at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Tuesday.
“I tell you honestly that if we only had 20 or 30 million shekels, which is what is paid [monthly] to families of martyrs, we will give them to the families of martyrs. I mean if the [Palestinian] Authority doesn’t have anything other than that [amount], I will pay it to the families of martyrs and prisoners and wounded persons. This needs to be understood,” he said, according to recordings of comments aired Wednesday on Voice of Palestine, the official PA radio station.
“In addition, I will turn to all international institutions to complain. Perhaps the world will hear me,” Abbas added.
A high-ranking Palestinian official insisted on Tuesday that the Palestinians cannot stop its payments to security prisoners or the families of slain attackers, calling such a move “political suicide.”
“These payments are one of the most sensitive issues in Palestinian society,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel. “If the PA were to get rid of them, it would be committing political suicide, especially considering the difficult political situation.”
Palestinian officials have condemned Israel for moving to withhold the half billion shekels, arguing it amounts to “piracy” of Palestinian funds.
Israeli officials have defended the security cabinet’s decision, arguing that the PA’s payments incentivize violence and terrorism.
Avi Dichter, the chair of the Knesset Defense Committee, has said Israel will spread out the withholding of the tax money over 12 months.
If Israel continues to collect a sum of taxes equivalent to that provided in the Reuters report, it will withhold approximately five percent of what it now transfers to the PA on a monthly basis.
Abbas’s rejection of all tax revenues could mean a PA forfeiture of hundreds of millions of shekels each month – several billion a year, and perhaps as much as a third of the PA’s total budget, as Times of Israel analyst Avi Issacharoff pointed out this week.
“It could mean, in other words, the de facto collapse of the PA,” he wrote. “When the PA threatened to do so in the past, Israel caved each time, fearing a spike in violence that could ensue after the PA’s disappearance. But Israel is now in the middle of an election, in which a right-wing incumbent government could find itself politically unable to appear to cave to the Palestinian threat.”
Polls have found that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians oppose the PA suspending its payments to security prisoners, including terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians.
A survey published in July 2017 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 91 percent of Palestinians were against halting the payments.
Israeli security officials have long supported strengthening the PA and have argued that initiatives to weaken it could destabilize the situation in the West Bank and hinder the ability of PA security forces to fight terrorism.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.
The air-to-surface missile can be fired from a significant standoff range, reducing exposure of the aircraft.
With tensions still high between Israel and Iran a new air-to-surface long-range missile designed for to destroy targets deep underground in heavily defended areas has been developed by Israeli defense giant Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Dubbed “Rocks,” the innovative missile is being presented this week for the first time at the Aero India Air Show in Bangalore, India.
Earlier in February, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander threatened to “raze Tel Aviv and Hafia to the ground” if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic.
According to a statement released by Rafael, the new missile is equipped with a penetration or blast fragmentation warhead that is capable of destroying targets above the surface or deep underground in heavily surface-to-air defended areas.
It can be used against quality targets, whether stationary or mobile, and even in areas where the enemy uses countermeasures against GPS systems.
“‘Rocks’ uses its INS/GPS for mid-course navigation while homing on to the target is performed by using its EO seeker and advanced image processing algorithms, which ensures hitting targets with great precision, overcoming GPS jamming or denial,” read the statement.
“Rocks” will be launched from a significant standoff range, far beyond the usual coverage areas of enemy air defense systems. It performs a high velocity trajectory toward the target, reducing the exposure of the aircraft as well as improving the chances of successfully hitting targets.
“‘Rocks’ provides a cutting edge and cost-effective solution that combines several combat-proven technologies inherited from our latest generation SPICE system. “Rocks” effectively answers a growing demand for long range, GPS-independent Air-to-Ground precision strike capability,” said Yuval Miller, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Rafael’s Air & C4ISR Systems Division.
“Aero India is an excellent opportunity to present this new system, and we can proudly say that today Rafael is well-situated in India with a broad industrial base, joint-ventures, indigenous companies and a substantial supply-chain,” Miller added.
Also on Wednesday, Rafael businessman Avihai Stolero announced that the company had finalized a merger agreement to acquire Yavne-based unmanned aerial systems (UAV) manufacturer, Aeronautics in a deal worth some NIS 850 million ($235m.).
Under the terms of the acquisition, the companies will seek to retain the employees of Aeronautics, who will receive a total of NIS 8.5 million ($2.35m.) as part of the deal.
Aeronautics will then become a full subsidiary of a new company jointly owned by Rafael and Stolero, and will be de-listed from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Eytan Halon contributed to this report.