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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

5 Weapons Israel Would Love to Buy From America

Military cooperation is a vital part of a wider exchange between Israel and America’s 75-year partnership. But Washington won’t sell everything to the Jewish state.

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker with the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Indiana, which had an aircrew with the 63rd Air Refueling Squadron, Florida, refuels a F-22 Raptor with the 325th Fighter Wing, Florida on February 23, 2021. The Stratotanker was on loan to MacDill Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany A. Emery)

Military cooperation is a vital part of a wider exchange between Israel and America’s 75-year partnership.

The U.S. was the first country to recognize Israel as a state in 1948 and has continued to support Israel’s security through defense cooperation. As a major purchaser of U.S. military equipment, Israel is considered a top non-NATO ally by America. Additionally, the Jewish state is involved in the joint development of military technology and frequently participates in joint military drills with America’s armed forces. 

Back in 2016, the U.S. and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a whopping $38 billion dollar commitment by the U.S. to aid the Jewish state’s defense endeavors. Israel and the U.S. prioritize regional stability in the Middle East, which is why the two countries work so closely together to achieve that aim.

Surrounded by hostile actors, the Jewish state requires a robust military arsenal. With that said, here is the dream list of what Israel would love to buy from America: 

The F-15EX fighter jet

The F-15EX Eagle II is derived from the deadliest fighter jet in the world today- the F-15 Eagle. With the unmatched kill ratio of 104 to 0, the American-made Eagle remains a staple in the many Air Force’s it flies with today. While Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) already possesses its own specially modified variant of the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II- the F-35I Adir, the Jewish state still desires the upgraded version of the older F-15 platform. The F-15EX can sport a much greater capacity of ordnance than the Adir.

F-15EX

F-15EX artist rendition. Image Credit: Boeing.

The F-35 has around 18,000 pounds of total payload when including external weapons bays, while the F-15EX can carry 30,000 pounds. Over the last month alone, the IDF has struck multiple targets in the region following a series of projectile barrages that the Iron Dome largely intercepted aimed toward the country. The ability to carry greater quantities of munitions is clearly a priority for the Jewish state during these flare-ups in violence with its surrounding neighbors. 

The good news for Israel is this might happen

The KC-46A Pegasus

Right when COVID-19 first erupted in March 20202, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency authorized Israel to procure up to eight KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft with an estimated delivery date in 2023. After years of delay due to domestic and budgetary hindrances, Boeing ultimately signed a $927 million contract to deliver four of its aerial refuelers to the IDF by 2026. The Pegasus is a modified version of the Boeing 767 and was designed to replace the aging KC-135 Stratotanker.

KC-46A

The first KC-46A Pegasus lands at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, June 12, 2020. The KC-46A Pegasus is a widebody, multirole tanker that can refuel all U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob B. Derry)

The refueler features boom and hose-and-drogue systems that enable the airframe to refuel all U.S., allied and coalition military airframes compatible with refueling. A litany of issues regarding the Pegasus’ design, including technical problems with its Remote Vision System of cameras, has led to the platform’s delay in production. However, tensions between Israel and its top adversary Iran have ramped up exponentially in recent months. In order to achieve long-range missions that could penetrate Iranian airspace, Israel is dependent on the Pegasus’ refueling capabilities. The Jewish state would certainly benefit from the accelerated delivery of Boeing’s aerial refuelers. 

The V-22 Osprey

Israel’s aerial capabilities are considered to be the best throughout the Middle East. However, the Jewish state faces critical logistical difficulties deploying its platforms further afield. For instance, the IDF’s helicopter fleets are able to move troops efficiently onto rough terrain but are limited in other factors including speed, altitude and range. Israel desires the U.S. Air Force’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in order to extend the range and speed of its own vertical lift capacities.  

V-22

A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command stages on a hasty landing zone during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel drill at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 16, 2015.

According to a 2015 report in the Wall Street Journal, Israel sought US “military hardware useful for a strike” on Iran in summer 2012 and “at the top of the list were V-22 Ospreys.” The Jerusalem Post notes that the report also stated that the Ospreys were to drop special forces “behind enemy lines” into Iran to attack the Fordow enrichment facility.” Budgetary constraints ultimately hindered Israel’s Osprey procurement. Considering the IDF’s heightened priority to achieve special mission and long-range capable platforms, the V-22 Osprey is probably at the top of its wish list. 

The F-22 Raptor

The first fifth-generation fighter to ever fly the skies was the American-made F-22 Raptor. Widely considered to be one of the most formidable platforms in existence, the Raptor is coveted by every foreign military- including the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

F-22

F-22 Hawaiian Raptor flies over Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 5, 2019.

The F-22 sports critical technologies that give it an edge over other fifth-generation airframes. For this reason, the U.S. has refused to send its homegrown jet to any other nation, even allies. The platform possesses supermaneuverable flight characteristics, including a small radar cross-section which makes it difficult for enemy airframes to detect. Additionally, the jet’s thrust-vectoring F119 turbofan engines enable the airframe to outclass any other near-peers in a dogfight. While the IAF already sports a world-class fighter arsenal, the addition of Raptor airframes would take its capabilities to a whole other level. 

The AH-64E attack helicopter

Israel currently operates UH-60 Black Hawks, Apaches and aging Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters. While the IAF is set to replace its decades-old fleet of Ch-53 choppers with the newer Ch-53K variant, the Jewish state is still on the hunt for more sophisticated platforms. Last month, Boeing was awarded a nearly $2 billion contract from the U.S. Army to begin full-rate production of the newest Apache attack helicopter variant AH-64E.

AH-64 Apache Helicopter

The latest Apache model can take out personnel, armor, material objects and sports an M230 30mm cannon, rockets and even Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. In order to conduct special missions in constrained terrain effectively, Israel requires a sophisticated chopper fleet. The IAF should look toward acquiring the latest Apache variant to enhance its aerial capabilities. 

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.