Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is author of “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative” and a popular speaker on issues concerning Israel and US foreign policy.
Israel’s use of the F-35 benefits the US
A recent mega-billion-dollar increase in the export of Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 combat aircraft is due to the overcoming of a series of pivotal glitches. This was achieved by Lockheed-Martin, as well as by Israel’s air force and aerospace industries (especially the innovative Israel Aerospace Industries – IAI), known as the cost-effective and battle-tested laboratory of the US defense and aerospace industries and armed forces.
In June 2016, Israel became the first country to use the highly-computerized F-35 operationally. Israel soon became successful in solving initial glitches that caused concern among prospective buyers.
The battle-tested Israeli laboratory – which communicates 24/7 with Lockheed-Martin (as it does with a litany of US defense contractors) - solved most of the operational and maintenance glitches by marshalling its intrinsic features, the derivatives of the uniquely challenging and threatening Middle East environment: optimism, patriotism, defiance of odds, out-of-the-box thinking, risk-taking, do-or-die state of mind, can-do and frontier-pioneering mentality.
The scores of Israeli solutions to the F-35 glitches – in the areas of data gathering and processing, electronic warfare and firing control accuracy - have been shared with the US manufacturer and the US Air Force, sustaining the F-35 superiority over its global competition; sparing Lockheed-Martin mega-billions of dollars in research and development; enhancing the manufacturer’s competitive edge; increasing exports by a few additional billions; and expanding the employment base of Lockheed-Martin and its multitude of subcontractors.
The critical upgrades in the current F-35 – achieved by the manufacturer and its Israeli battle-tested laboratory - have produced a combat aircraft, which is substantially superior to the original generation.
In fact, the enhanced performance of the F-35 demonstrates Israel’s role as an important source of US’ weaponry modernization, reduction of the unit cost, and in expanding job creation in the US.
Similar mega-billion-dollar benefits to the US economy and defense have been generated by the hundreds of Israeli solutions and add-on, which have upgraded the performance of the technologically less-challenging F-16 (Lockheed-Martin) and F-15 (Boeing). In fact, all US manufacturers of military systems employed by Israel have benefited in a similar manner.
Moreover, some 250 commercial US high-tech giants (e.g., John Deere, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Texas Instruments, Intel, Nvidia, General Motors, Microsoft, AT&T, IBM, Dell, Google, Facebook, Intuit, etc.) have established research and development centers in Israel, leveraging Israel’s brain power and innovative spirit, in order to sustain their global lead, yielding a consequential increase in global sales.
Similarly, the US defense and aerospace industries established their own Israeli research and development centers through the hundreds of US military systems, which are employed - and systematically improved - by the Israel Defense Forces, yielding to the US consequential benefits to its economy and defense.
US-Israel mutually-beneficial two-way-street
In 2023, the world features an ineffective NATO (No Action Talk Only?), vacillating Europe, turbulent Arab Street, intensifying anti-US Sunni and Shite Islamic terrorism, an imperialistic Iran with a solid strategic foothold in Central and South America, and a US attempt to minimize its military presence in the Middle East.
However, the Middle East is a major junction of world trade and energy resources - between the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf - the epicenter of anti-US Islamic terrorism, global drug trafficking and proliferation of ballistic and nuclear technologies, all of which constitute a clear and present threat to the US national and homeland security.
Under such circumstances, Israel is the most reliable, battle-tested and cost-effective ally, and a potential beachhead of the US in the face of mutual threats (Iran’s Shite Ayatollahs and Sunni Islamic terrorism) and in the pursuit of mutual challenges (developing game-changing commercial and defense technologies).
As stated by the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who was Chief of US Naval Operations, and General Alexander Haig, who was a Supreme Commander of NATO and a US Secretary of State, Israel is the largest US aircraft carrier, one which does not require a single US military personnel on board, cannot be sunk, deployed in a most critical area of the world, and sparing the US the need to manufacture, deploy and maintain a few more real aircraft carriers along with a few ground divisions, which would cost the US $15bn-$20bn annually.
Israel shares with the US more intelligence than is shared with the US by all NATO countries combined (e.g., counter-terrorism, rival and enemy advanced weapon systems). According to General George Keagan, who was Head of US Air Force intelligence, the scope of Israeli intelligence gained by the US is equal to the output of five CIAs (the annual budget of one CIA is almost $15bn).
Israel’s battle experience has been shared with the US, saving American lives by serving as a basis for the formulation of US air force and ground force battle tactics, enhancing military medicine, as well as training US soldiers in urban warfare and facing car bombs, suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
In view of the aforementioned data, the annual $3.8bn extended to Israel (to purchase only US military systems) does not constitute “foreign aid.” It is an annual US investment in an immensely-grateful Israel, yielding to the US an annual Return-on-Investment (R-o-I) of a few hundred percent. It is the most productive and secure US investment, underlying the mutually-beneficial US-Israel two-way-street.