Chuck Hagel speaks in Islamabad 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mian Kursheed)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will land in Israel on Sunday on a visit which is expected to see the finalization of an arms deal that will enable Israel to improve its long-range strike, aerial patrol and troop transport capabilities.
During the visit, Hagel will meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and conclude the sale of V-22 Osprey aircraft, refueling tankers, advanced radars for fighter jets and anti-air defense missiles.
The arms deal will not be the only topic of talks between Ya’alon and Hagel, an Israeli defense source told The Jerusalem Post
. The Iranian nuclear program and ongoing Syrian instability will demand the attention of both defense leaders.
Israel Air Force pilots have begun training on the tili-rotor V-22 aircraft, which uses rotors to take off and land vertically before flying on missions as an airplane. It can match the speed of a Hercules and refuel from it during sorties. The V-22 will improve the IAF’s aerial patrol capabilities, and can also transport troops a considerable distance.
Israel will also purchase the KC-135 military refueling plane, which will form a substantial addition to the IAF’s current fleet of modified Boeing 707 refueling aircraft, of which the air force is believed to have around 10.
The arms deal is part of a wider $10 billion package involving US sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, designed to provide Washington’s allies in the region with enhanced military capabilities against Iran. The UAE will take stock of 25 F-16 Desert Falcon jets worth nearly $5b.
“This not only sustains but augments Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region,” Reuters quoted a US official as saying. “This package is a significant advance for Israel... This is about giving all three partners in the region added capacity to address key threats that they may face down the road.”The New York Times
cited a US official as saying that the package was aimed at helping “Israel deal with various security challenges – but devised so it would not be viewed as an American endorsement of accelerated planning by Israel to strike alone at Tehran’s suspected nuclear facilities.”
Last week, the Pentagon announced it was sending 200 American soldiers to Jordan, adding that the deployment could end up being part of a larger movement of 20,000 soldiers to secure loose chemical weapons. The US is reluctant to get involved in Syria, but is preparing for the eventuality nevertheless.
The 200 soldiers, from the 1st Armored Division, “will establish a small headquarters near Jordan’s border with Syria to help deliver humanitarian supplies for a growing flood of refugees and to plan for possible military operations, including a rapid buildup of American forces if the White House decides intervention is necessary, senior US officials said,” according to The Los Angeles Times
Last week, Ya’alon used an Independence Day speech to warn that Israel had to prepare for the possibility of defending itself against Iran on its own. Israel should not lead the campaign against Iran, but it is the first target of the ayatollah regime, Ya’alon said, citing threats by Iranian rulers.
“The world must lead the campaign against Iran, but Israel must prepare for the possibility that it will have to defend itself with its own powers,” he warned.Reuters contributed to this report