In one of the largest weapons deals since the war in Lebanon, the Israel Air Force intends to purchase thousands of Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) missiles from the United States for an estimated $100 million, The Jerusalem Post has learned. During the war this past summer, the IAF used JDAM missiles extensively and even received emergency shipments from the US. The aerial shipments caused an international uproar after one of the planes destined for Israel was routed through Glasgow's Prestwick Airport and reportedly did not fly according to safety and security procedures established by the British Civil Aviation Authority.
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The Post has also learned of ongoing negotiations between the IAF and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) concerning the purchase of LORA ground-to-ground ballistic tactical missiles. Accurate to less than 10 meters, equal to that of a JDAM, the LORA missile can eliminate targets without risking expensive fighter jets. It can be equipped with a 400-kilogram high-explosive warhead and can penetrate enemy territory more than 1,000 kilometers away.
The LORA missile was displayed by IAI at the Eurosatory defense exhibition in Paris in 2006. It was developed under orders by former prime minister Ariel Sharon and was the brainchild of former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who realized the need for a tactical missile that could carry out missions instead of fighter jets.
The JDAM is a low-cost guidance kit produced by Boeing Co. that converts free-fall bombs into guided "smart" weapons. The JDAM kit consists of a tail section that contains a Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System and body improvements for additional stability and lift.
Israel became the first foreign customer to purchase the system in 2000. The kits were then added to Mk-84, 2,000-pound warheads, turning simple iron bombs into precision, satellite-guided weapons.
According to defense sources, the funds for the deal will come from the IAF's procurement fund. The deal will not require congressional approval since Israel is exercising a previously approved option to purchase the system.
Following the war, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy urged the Defense Ministry to begin negotiations with the Pentagon and Boeing regarding the kits. JDAM missiles were used extensively during the fighting against Hizbullah and reportedly were able to destroy targets.
The JDAM-equipped bombs receive data on the kit's target while still attached to the warplane's computer. After the jet releases it, a satellite takes over and guides it. This relieves the aircraft and crew from the need to remain in enemy territory to "ride the bomb down" to its target.
The system's greatest benefit for the IAF will be its accuracy regardless of weather conditions, day or night. This will be a great improvement over the laser-guided bombs currently in the IAF's arsenal, which are less effective in foggy conditions, or with heavy clouds and smoke.