Israel Hopeful US Won’t Sell Advanced Fighter Jets to Gulf, Compromise IDF Edge
Jerusalem is optimistic the Obama administration will not compromise Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) in the region by selling fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets to Gulf nations, Defense News reported.
As the US arms Saudi Arabia and Gulf states with advanced weaponry and defense capabilities following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, Israel has expressed worry over its ability to maintain its military might over regional enemies.
According to the report, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations would be allowed to purchase the F-35s only after Israel has integrated the fighter jet into its air force — or so Israel hopes. This “widely held, if rarely articulated, belief” is keeping Israel’s concerns at bay.
US Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told Defense News that the sale of the jets to Gulf nations over the next decade is unlikely. “Right now, we do not have any expectation for selling the F-35 in the near term, beyond the countries that have already bought into the program,” he said.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan told Defense News, “We’ve know that US policy is not to provide F-35 to other countries in the region for many years into the future, but it’s nice to hear this expressed publicly and explicitly.”
In Saudi Arabia, US President Barack Obama is meeting with GCC leaders this week, amid speculation of an announcement concerning the sale of F-15 Silent Eagles to Qatar and F/A-18s to Kuwait, the report notes. Sources told Defense News that the sales have been delayed for two years, due to Israel’s concerns over its QME.
Earlier in April, Israel Air Force Commander of the Air Support and Helicopters Division Brig. Gen. Yaron Rosen told The Algemeiner that the West’s arming of Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations is “risking something which is very basic in the competitive edge principal.” He explained, “The weaponry and weapons systems are beginning to look the same” across the Middle East and the only way for Israel to keep its competitive edge is to “give Israel more than its neighbors [in] quality and numbers.”