Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Jul 13, 2009
Israel Aerospace Industries, the flagship of Israel's defense industry, was "discouraged" by the United States from collaborating with Swedish plane maker Saab to develop a variant of the Gripen strike aircraft for the Indian air force, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.
The London-based magazine quoted Israeli officials as confirming industry reports that pressure from the Pentagon had forced IAI out of the joint venture to meet India's requirements for a multirole combat aircraft.
Washington "did not officially veto" the project, one official was quoted as saying, but "preferred that Israel's Minister of Defense did not propose the idea to India's Minister of Defense."
State-owned IAI had hoped to provide the radar systems for the planned Gripen variant, the source said, but the United States "sent messages to the Israeli Minister of Defense" indicating that Washington "did not see (the potential partnership) in a very positive way."
Israel has become India's main defense supplier after Russia and has signed a string of big-ticket deals. These include Israeli-manufactured Phalcon AWACS -- Russian-built Ilyushin Il-76s equipped with Israeli-developed radar and surveillance systems -- and developing a land-based version of the seaborne Barak surface-to-air missile.
This defense alliance, which has rapidly built up since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, between the Jewish state and Hindu-dominated India, stems primarily from their shared threat from Islamic jihadists.
The United States has encouraged the alliance to help counter China's growing military capabilities.
But given the recent emphasis by U.S. defense contractors to concentrate on foreign sales to maintain production lines in the face of wide-ranging cutbacks in military procurement for combat aircraft, large naval surface craft and main battle tanks, Washington cannot afford to miss out on projects like the Indian air force's multirole jet.
U.S. companies have proposed their own candidates. Lockheed's F-16IN is a contender, along with Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. They face competition from The Eurofighter Typhoon, the Rafale built by France's Dassault Aviation (still looking for its first foreign Rafale customer) and the Russian Aircraft Corp.'s MiG-35.
According to Jane's, the Indian air force, which until now has largely been equipped with Russian aircraft, hopes to deploy the first batch of 18 of the new combat aircraft by 2013-15, while another 108 fighters will be built under license in India for delivery in 2021-25.
Earlier this month, the Israeli air force, which operates U.S.-built combat aircraft exclusively, submitted a Letter of Request, known in military-speak as an LOR, to the U.S. Department of defense to buy 25 F-35 stealth fighters built by Lockheed Martin. That's enough to equip one Israel squadron.
This deal, worth around $100 million, will allow the Israeli air force to phase out its older F-15 and F-16 models. Israel seeks an option on another 50 F-35s to form the backbone of its strike capabilities.
Meantime, the Israeli air force took delivery of the first four of 20 Hawker Beechcraft T-6A Texan II training aircraft on July 7.
The two-seat turboprop aircraft, which will be known as Effroni (Lark) in Israeli service, will replace the French-built Fouga CM-170 Magisters, which the air force has used since it was founded in 1948.
The venerable Magisters were sometimes equipped with bombs and machine guns for ground-attack missions during wartime.
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Britain revokes five Israeli arms export licences: officials
Jerusalem (AFP) July 13, 2009
Britain has revoked five Israeli arms export licences over the Gaza war, blocking the supply of replacement parts to navy gunships used in the offensive, officials and reports said on Monday. "The Foreign Office told the Israeli embassy in London last week that following a decision by parliament, Great Britain will stop the sale of certain arms" to Israel, a senior official told AFP on ... read more
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