Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

UAE May Bankroll Next-Generation Radar for Israeli F-16s

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

UAE May Bankroll Next-Generation Radar for Israeli F-16s

Article excerpt

UAE May Bankroll Next-Generation Radar for Israeli F-16s

The United Arab Emirates may inadvertently subsidize the research and development of an advanced radar system for Israel's next purchase of U.S. fighter air-craft, Defense News reported in June. At issue is the Agile Beam Radar, an advanced radar system under development by North-rop Grumman that will equip the UAE's recent $7 billion purchase of 80 F-16 tactical aircraft. Developing this highly advanced radar will cost the UAE hundreds of millions of dollars, and it may be used as a royalty-free bargaining chip to entice Israel to buy the Lockheed Martin F-16 instead of the F-15I built by Boeing.

This strange situation began recently when Israel asked U.S. Air Force permission to integrate an Israeli-produced radar system on U.S.-built F-16s, which would require the U.S. government to turn over highly sensitive software codes to Israel. After months of deliberation, the Air Force refused, citing a potential Israeli monopoly on the upgrade market if it were to receive that information, and national security concerns. "The real problem is configuration control," an unnamed official told Defense News. "If the Israelis build or procure an F-16 with a nonstandard radar, it certainly will create some interoperability and supportability problems.

"Then, of course, there's the issue of U.S. taxpayer dollars being used to fund [Israel's] F-16 acquisition. It leaves us with the nagging feeling that we'd be using our money to create our own competition...and we've seen that with the F-5 and F-4 already," that same official said. Israel repeatedly has won contracts to upgrade F-5 and F-4 aircraft, almost always at the expense of U.S. firms.

Concerns about the safety of advanced American technology in Israeli hands also played a role. "What [the Israelis] want is in the too-hard category," a Pentagon official told Defense News. "We cannot relinquish control of the [software] codes to the central nervous system of the F-16...The issue is one of national security policy. We simply cannot let that genie out of the bottle."

Israel retaliated by threatening to suspend the F-16 from competition for Israel's next $2 billion purchase (with U.S. grant military aid) of fighter aircraft, which would leave the field open to the F-15I built by Boeing. Israel took delivery in January of the first of 25 F-15Is -- possibly the most advanced aircraft in service anywhere in the world today -- also paid for exclusively with U. …

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