Archive for May 30, 2018

Lockheed Martin F-35 Fighter Poised To Become One Of America’s Biggest Exports

May 30, 2018

BY: Loren Thompson May 29, 2018 via Forbes

Source Link:
Lockheed Martin F-35 Fighter Poised To Become One Of America’s Biggest Exports

{More bang for the bucks. – LS}

The Pentagon’s F-35 fighter has completed its development program and begun deploying overseas. About 300 have been delivered, and that number will double by the end of 2020. The U.S. military plans to buy 2,443 of the stealthy aircraft in three distinct variants tailored to the needs of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

To date, public discussion of F-35 has focused mainly on what the fighter can do for U.S. warfighters, and at what cost. But there is another dimension to the F-35 story, and that is the positive impact the plane will have on America’s trade balance as overseas friends and allies acquire well over a thousand of the fighters, mainly to replace aging F-16s bought during the Cold War.

The F-35 program from its inception has had eight partner countries that helped pay for its development and now are poised to purchase over 600 of the planes. But that is just the beginning of the program’s trade impact. An additional 800 planes are expected to be bought by other countries through the Foreign Military Sales program. That process has already begun, with Israel, Japan and South Korea signing on before development was even completed.

Other potential customers currently include Belgium, Finland, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. Over the longer term, virtually every military power that might one day need to contemplate coalition warfare with America will want to take a look, because (1) no other tactical aircraft will be as survivable, (2) no other tactical aircraft will be as versatile, (3) no other tactical aircraft will be as cost-effective, and (4) no other tactical aircraft will mesh as seamlessly with U.S. air power.

I suppose this would be a good point at which to note that F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin is both a contributor to my think tank and a consulting client. If I had made the above four claims a few years ago, you might rightly have questioned my objectivity. But not now. After 9,000 flight tests, F-35 has demonstrated all of the performance features expected of it, including the ability to avoid being tracked by Chinese and Russian air defenses.

In addition, the price has fallen to a level where the most common variant will soon cost no more than the latest F-16 — for a great deal more capability. For instance, the electronic warfare suite on F-35 will generate ten times more radiated power than previous fighters, meaning it will not need a jamming aircraft flying escort in order to safely penetrate hostile air space. Every military power within a thousand miles of Russia or China is likely to want that, because when combined with low observables (“stealth”) it makes F-35 unstoppable.

What could be a more credible deterrent than a supersonic (1,200 mph) strike aircraft that can’t be tracked by radar and yet can strike ground targets with pinpoint accuracy and see air targets hundreds of miles away? As if all that were not enough, neither Russia nor China are likely to have anything comparable until the 2030s — if then. Bottom line: F-35 is setting the global standard for tactical air power through mid-century, and overseas sales of the plane will deliver a powerful boost to America’s trade balance.

So how big might that boost be? I’m guessing that over the long run, it will approach a trillion dollars. For starters, if we assign a nominal price of $100 million per plane — which is close to what the most common, Air Force variant costs today — then the value of the 1,500 or so planes Lockheed currently expects to sell overseas is $150 billion. But that doesn’t include life-cycle support and services, which typically cost more than the initial purchase price over decades of operation.

Lockheed has incorporated various “sustainment” features into the F-35 design that will make it easier to maintain than legacy fighters, and more are coming. On the other hand, threats are changing so rapidly that F-35s will likely require frequent software upgrades and periodic hardware modifications across a service life stretching to 2070. Add in the government’s inflation projections across the same timespan, and the export value of the program as currently baselined is already pushing half a trillion “then-year” dollars.

Of course, if inflation were to spike at some point during this period — which it almost certainly will — then the nominal value of the program will too. Let’s leave that possibility out of the estimate since it is incalculable. But let’s not omit the likelihood of multiple wars that stimulate demand, or the need to replace planes lost in combat and training, or the new requirements that might emerge when F-35 pilots find themselves fighting novel challenges such as supersonic drones.

Let’s also bear in mind that F-35 has never lost an overseas competition in which it was entered. Avascent reported last year that over 50 competitions were under way around the world for new tactical aircraft, although less than half had been disclosed publicly. But as geopolitical developments unfold, Washington may decide it needs to sell F-35s to India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and other countries not currently on the short list of prospective buyers.

That doesn’t mean India can’t produce and export F-16s to countries unable or unwilling to buy F-35s (as it is currently contemplating), but India may decide it needs a “high-low mix” of fighters to deal with threats emanating from China or other neighbors. With Washington deeply valuing its strategic ties to New Delhi and F-35 poised to become the global standard for multi-role tactical aircraft, it’s easy to imagine India buying over a hundred eventually. Other customers no one is talking about today might too.

Finally, let’s keep in mind that the F-35’s arrival has dovetailed nicely with a wholesale revision of U.S. arms transfer policy by the Trump administration. The president signed a memorandum on April 19 streamlining the sale of weapons to other countries and committing the government to participating in the overseas promotion of U.S. military products. Trump rightly noted in the memorandum the multiple ways in which such sales stimulate the U.S. technology and industrial base.

That policy isn’t likely to change once Trump leaves office, because Americans would dearly like their allies to take on more of the burden of collective defense. Countries like Germany can show their commitment to shared security objectives while better defending themselves and reducing trade imbalances by buying the F-35. I won’t waste your time with conjectural calculations about how all these factors might combine to make F-35 America’s first weapons program to generate a trillion dollars in export earnings, but it’s probably going to happen.


Iran is the culprit behind Tuesday’s Gaza rocket barrage, Israel says

May 30, 2018

The mass produced 120mm mortars and more accurate 107 mm rockets were fired by Iranian funded Islamic Jihad

BY: Anna Ahronheim May 30, 2018 via The Jerusalem Post

Source Link:
Iran is the culprit behind Tuesday’s Gaza rocket barrage, Israel says

{The snake in the woodpile. – LS}

Israel is pointing fingers at Iran as the culprit behind the most serious escalation on it’s southern front in four years.

Less than a month after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps fired 32 rockets toward Israel’s northern Golan Heights, the Iranian-funded Islamic Jihad, along with Hamas, fired some 180 Iranian-made, 120-millimeter mortar shells from the Gaza strip. The barrage included the more precise 107-millimeter rocket, which has a range of about ten kilometers into the communities in southern Israel.

It was the largest salvo fired from the Gaza Strip since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. In response, Israel carried out the most extensive retaliation since 2014, striking 65 Hamas targets across the entire Gaza Strip, including a dual-purpose tunnel dug one kilometer into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and then 900 meters into Israeli territory.

According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, the tunnel was meant to not only carry out attacks against Israel, but to smuggle weaponry into the blockaded coastal enclave.

Despite Israel’s intelligence superiority over terror groups, as well a blockade imposed both by the IDF and Egypt, Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip have restocked their supply of weapons in the four years since the last round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The mass-produced Iranian mortar shells used in yesterday’s salvos were also used by Islamic Jihad in an attack in January, as well as a barrage 12 mortar shells toward an army outpost in November.

Israel has intercepted Iranian weapons destined for the Strip several times, including just months before the outbreak of Operation Protective Edge when it stopped the Klos-C commercial ship filled with Syrian long-range rockets.

Before the salvos, less than 10 projectiles had been fired from the Hamas-run Strip into Israeli territory in 2018. The previous year saw 31, mainly during the month of December after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In 2016, some 15 were launched toward Israel, and in 2015, another 21.

With an estimated 180 projectiles fired into Israel in one 24 hour period, that makes the total amount of projectiles fired into Israel more than the total number of rockets and mortars fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip since 2014.

Speaking on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the former director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and former head of the research division in IDF Military Intelligence said that that the “relatively short” round of violence on Tuesday was in a way “encouraged by the Iranians.”

Tuesday’s violence was “another reflection of Iran’s frustrations and tensions which is trying to show it can cause trouble and instability,” he said, pointing to Hamas’ involvement with the March of Return and how Yihya Sinwar has boasted about his close ties to Hezbollah and Iran, including IRGC Quds Force commander Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“Iran doesn’t want stability here. They want to make everyone realize that they are a player and that they should be taken very seriously with a lot of respect and in this way deter people from putting more pressure on them, but it isn’t working.”


After 130 rockets fired from Gaza, Israelis wake to tentative calm 

May 30, 2018

Source: After 130 rockets fired from Gaza, Israelis wake to tentative calm – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns and cities throughout the night. House in Netivot suffered direct hit.

 MAY 30, 2018 07:48
After 130 rockets fired from Gaza, Israelis wake to tentative calm

Following scores of militant rocket and mortar launches throughout the day countered by Israeli tank fire and air strikes, the pro-Iran Islamic Jihad militant group said late Tuesday night that an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement had been implemented, but Israel said reports of a deal were untrue.

“Palestinian factions will abide by calm as long as (Israel) abides by it,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said. An Israeli official who declined to be named said, “The report about a ceasefire is incorrect.”

According to Palestinian media reports Wednesday morning, a ceasefire was put in place around 5 a.m., although this has not been confirmed by the Israelis. Sirens which had been blaring regularly throughout the night, petered off as day broke in the region. As a result of the cautious calm, Israeli schools in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip are open and operating normally.

Israeli sirens warning of imminent rocket and mortar strikes sounded all throughout the night in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. Most of the projectiles were either intercepted by Israel’s advanced Iron Dome missile defense system or landed in open fields. In one case, however a home in the city of Netivot was directly hit, but no one was injured. In response to the fire, Israeli aircraft hit 55 militant targets in the Palestinian coastal enclave, including a cross-border tunnel under construction, the military said.

Over 130 rockets and mortars were fired towards Israel throughout Tuesday and into early Wednesday morning. Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said the most extensive strikes from Gaza since the 2014 war had drawn “the largest IDF retaliatory attack” since that conflict.

Several militant projectiles were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome rocket interceptor system, others landed in empty lots and farmland. One exploded in a kindergarten yard, damaging walls and scattering debris and shrapnel around the playground, about an hour before it was scheduled to open for the day.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened security chiefs on Tuesday, and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said the country was “at the closest point to the threshold of war” since the seven-week conflict with Palestinian militants four years ago.

“If the firing (from Gaza) does not stop, we will have to escalate our responses and it could lead to a deterioration of the situation,” Katz said on Army Radio.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Fatah faction that is dominant in the occupied West Bank and is a bitter rival of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said Israel had used “vigorous aggression” against Gaza that proved it did not want peace.

Various international leaders have condemned the day’s events, with the US calling for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting set to take place Wednesday afternoon.

Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he was deeply concerned by “the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel.”

Amid international condemnation of its use of lethal force at the mass demonstrations that began on March 30, Israel said many of the dead were militants and that the army was repelling attacks on the border fence.

Hamas must choose between war or peace 

May 30, 2018

Source: Hamas must choose between war or peace ‎ – Israel Hayom

Yoav Limor

This week’s mortar fire on southern Israel is the ‎gravest security escalation on the Israel-Gaza Strip ‎border since Operation Protective Edge in ‎the summer of 2014, but Israeli defense officials ‎believe Israel and Gaza can still avoid a ‎full-fledged ‎military conflict, saying the choice of ‎what happens next is in Hamas’ hands. ‎

This escalation did not happen overnight. It began ‎with the failure of the so-called “million-man march” ‎Hamas planned to unleash on the border two weeks ago ‎to mark Nakba Day, which commemorates the ‎‎”catastrophe” of Palestinian displacement during ‎Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The “million men” ended up being only several thousand. Since then, ‎Hamas’ border riot campaign has also been dwindling.‎

To try to maintain friction with Israeli security ‎forces, Hamas has spared no effort to turn the ‎border area into a terrorist zone, and has ‎given its operatives – and Palestinian protesters – ‎a free hand to carry out terrorist attacks, including ‎hurling firebombs, sending incendiary kites and ‎balloons over the border, and placing explosives on ‎the security fence. ‎

Israeli shelling in response to one of these attacks killed ‎three Islamic Jihad operatives. The terrorist group ‎claimed responsibility for Tuesday morning’s salvo, ‎citing retaliation, but there is no doubt Hamas gave it the green light. ‎

Hamas, which rules Gaza, gambled that Israel would ‎mount the obligatory measured response and that this would end the current round. This is why Hamas ‎operatives were not involved in any rocket fire then.‎

But Israel mounted a large response instead, striking ‎dozens of terror hubs and destroying a Hamas ‎terror tunnel in southern Gaza. Hamas was pressured ‎to respond, both by its own members and the other ‎terrorist groups in Gaza, and, in a bid to maintain ‎control, it decided to join the ‎fire spree.‎

One defense official called it the “Fatah syndrome,” ‎saying that Hamas’ biggest fear is being ‎perceived – like rival faction Fatah – as doing ‎nothing to take part in the Palestinian struggle.‎

Still, Hamas made it clear to its operatives that ‎their fire must be limited to the Israeli communities near the border and that they must avoid a wider range that could ‎compromise larger cities such as Ashdod, Beersheba ‎and even Tel Aviv. ‎

Israeli defense officials debated the intensity of ‎Israel’s response, but it was widely believed that ‎decisive action was needed to make it clear to Hamas ‎that a red line had been crossed. ‎

From a public diplomacy standpoint, Israel placed ‎responsibility for the escalation in the south on ‎Hamas, which controls Gaza, and on Iran, ‎which sponsors it and spurs it into action. ‎Islamic Jihad was also condemned to a lesser ‎degree, despite its direct involvement. Israel was careful and sought to avoid Palestinian ‎casualties as much as possible. ‎

The Israeli response was meant mostly to give Hamas the necessary ‎leeway to contain the situation before it spirals ‎out of control. Naturally, the IDF is ready for ‎that to happen, but it still prefers to avoid a ‎wide-ranging military campaign if possible.‎

Egypt and Qatar played roles as brokers Tuesday, to little effect. The decision of where to go ‎from here remains in Hamas’ hands. If it mounts a ‎minor response to the IAF’s strikes in Gaza, Israel will be able to pull back. But if the mortar ‎and rocket salvos continue, the IDF will retaliate ‎forcibly and things could easily deteriorate from ‎there. ‎

The prevailing view in Israel is that Hamas has no ‎interest in such escalation, but its conduct ‎currently is confused and erratic, which is a recipe for ‎mistakes. ‎

Even if an escalation is avoided, this ‎is hardly the end of the story. Gaza is on the ‎brink of eruption for a variety of reasons, most ‎notably the dire economic and humanitarian ‎situation, coupled with growing political and ‎political frustration. Given Hamas’ failure to ‎provide Gazans with any solutions, it can go on one ‎of two paths: a cease-fire or war. Both options are still on the table.‎

Hamas’ junior partner, Iran’s hidden hand 

May 30, 2018

Source: Hamas’ junior partner, Iran’s hidden hand – Israel Hayom

Dr. Eran Lerman

The mortar attacks and cross-border infiltrations from the Gaza Strip should serve as a reminder that Hamas may be in charge of the Gaza Strip, but it has a junior partner that is dangerous and capricious and that it refuses to disarm: Islamic Jihad.

There is a reason for this. While Hamas is, generally speaking, in contact with Iran, it still operates independently. But Islamic Jihad works on Iran’s behalf and is largely an Iranian proxy.

Hamas has chosen not to take on Islamic Jihad so as not to exacerbate its already strained relationship with Iran (stemming from their differences over how to treat Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime). This has led to a situation in which Islamic Jihad acts as an independent military force that does not report to Hamas and serves a foreign interest.

Hamas knows that allowing this may come with a steep price, as the “mini conflagrations” that preceded the 2014 Gaza war showed. Islamic Jihad is not an organic Palestinian organization; unlike Fatah in the days of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and unlike Hamas now, it never fought to maintain its “istiklal al-karar” (“the right to make its own decisions”). Islamic Jihad is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the Iranian regime and serves its interests.

Incidentally, this shows that the Iranian-led radical camp in the Middle East includes non-Shiites. There are virtually no Shiites among Palestinians; Islamic Jihad, like Hamas and Islamic State, is Sunni.

Iran has its own agenda. It finds it easier to exert pressure on Israel and threaten it without making Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon, enter the fray through another war with Israel. It also prefers to avoid another confrontation with Israel on the Syrian front, which cost it dearly several weeks ago. Iran has opted to capitalize on the Gaza flare-ups, which generate solidarity with the Palestinians on perceived humanitarian grounds.

By doing so, Iran is also signaling Hamas that it can use force to derail Israel-Hamas mediation efforts led by Egypt, Qatar and others. Israel does not seek an escalation, nor does it want to let Iran drag it into its irresponsible game.

But it is also important that Israel’s reactions make it clear to Hamas that letting Islamic Jihad trigger another widespread escalation does not serve its interests or its continued existence.

Col. (ret.) Dr. Eran Lerman, former deputy director of the National Security Council, is the vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.

Losing the Democrats 

May 30, 2018

Source: Losing the Democrats – Israel Hayom

Zalman Shoval

A group of 76 Democratic U.S. Congress members has sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking that Israel stop demolishing homes in the Palestinian village of Susya, beyond the Green Line.

“These actions unilaterally change facts on the ground and jeopardize the prospects for a two-state solution,” as well as Israel’s chances of remaining a Jewish, democratic state, they wrote.

Although the two-state idea is irrelevant right now and the homes are being demolished because of security considerations – and the demolitions require the approval of the High Court of Justice – this is of no particular interest to Jewish Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, one of the signatories. Unsurprisingly, she has the support of the leftist group J Street, which takes an anti-Israeli stance on almost every issue, including the nuclear deal with Iran.

Despite its bias, the letter itself was not particularly disturbing, other than the fact that everyone who signed it was from the Democratic Party, which in the not-too-distant past was considered a consistent supporter of Israel. One of the main reasons for this shift, possibly the most important one, is that President Donald Trump, who is loathed by the liberal Left, supports Israel, making support for Israel a target in the intensifying conflict between the American political camps.

Unlike in the past, when support for Israel in the U.S. was bilateral, the Trump administration’s support amid the heated relations between the two political poles have made Israel into a legitimate target for attack in the eyes of the left wing in the Democratic Party. Democratic politicians were notably absent from the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Rather than admit that Democratic presidents, as well as Republican, had gone back on their promises to relocate the embassy, Democratic lawmakers preferred to punish Israel for Trump’s “sin” of actually living up to his commitment.

Shalom Lipner, a research fellow at the liberal Brookings Institute in Washington, published an article last Tuesday titled “Netanyahu’s risky romance with Trump.” One of his supposed pieces of proof is the similarity of the U.S.’s and the Netanyahu government’s stances on Iran. Even though even Netanyahu’s political opponents in Israel see the issue as one of existential significance, if it’s Trump who takes action against the Iranian threat, that is apparently out of bounds. Lipner disparages what he calls “short-term gains,” but forgets that reining in Iranian aggression is the opposite of “short-term,” and it is obvious that Israel can breathe a sigh of relief after eight years of a U.S. president who had a negative stance toward Israel from his first day in office.

It could be that the current good relations with the Trump administration won’t last forever. There is also no way of knowing what the U.S. Congress will look like five months from now, after the 2018 midterm elections, or how the next presidential election will turn out. This is why the internal fight between the center and the populist Left in the Democratic Party should be a concern, especially given that judging by some of the party primaries, the Left could gain strength. Not all of them are necessarily anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian, but their traditional emotional connection to Israel is far from a sure thing.

Israel has no desire to become part of the American domestic political game, and it hopes that the Jews there will differentiate between their interests and positions as Americans and their identification with Israel. Israel’s strengthening ties with the evangelical Christian community are a thorn in the side of many American Jews. But the evangelicals are natural partners, not because of their opinions on religion and the end of days, but because of their worldview on Israel. The fact that there are millions of African-American and Hispanic evangelicals is also important.

Some of the evangelical slogans are certainly not to our taste, and it is clear that evangelicals can never replace the connection Israel, as the Jewish state, has with U.S. Jewry, but the practical partnership with them is a political asset that every Israeli government should foster.

As Gaza front cools, Iran and Syria move on their next flashpoint

May 30, 2018

Source: As Gaza front cools, Iran and Syria move on their next flashpoint – Quneitra – DEBKAfile

Hours after the Palestinians paused on Wednesday, May 30, in their broadest rocket/mortar assault on Israel in four years, their Iranian backers were already moving on the Golan.
Under cover of the deafening Gaza clash, Iran, Syria and Hizballah began marching military units on the road to Quneitra opposite Israel’s Golan border. They include the Syrian army’s 42nd armored brigade of the elite 4th Division.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report Iran is employing its classical tactic of cooling one sector – on Israel’s southern border with Gaza – while creeping up silently on another – the Golan front in the north.
The movement is timed to reach Quneitra on Thursday, March 31, when Russian defense minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman are due to meet in Moscow.