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November 13, 2002

War prep: U.S., Israel compete for access to same weapons

Fortunately they are friends so competition can be coordinated.
TEL AVIV — Israel and the United States are quietly competing for the same weapons rolling off production lines as both countries prepare for a Middle East war.

Israeli defense officials said they are trying to prevent their weapons requirements from being hampered by U.S. military orders from major American defense manufacturers.

"There's a competition for the production line [between Israel and the United States]," Brig. Gen. Shimon Sarid, head of the equipment division of the Israel Air Force, said. "We are getting good treatment despite the rearming of the U.S. military."

Over the last six months, Israel has accelerated orders for such weapons as TOW anti-tank missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munition systems, air-to-air missiles and other systems. Officials said the orders are meant to maintain combat readiness for any regional war in the Middle East over the next year.

The Israel Defense Forces has set as a priority military readiness for a major war during 2003. Officials said such a war could take place on the eve of or during a U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq.

Sarid said the U.S. military has accelerated orders of many of the same weapons required by Israel. He said the two countries have coordinated production schedules with major American contractors.

Officials said much of the strategic dialogue with the United States regards assurances that Israel will not see significant delays in the deliveries of a range of systems and weapons it has ordered. "There's a dialogue on this all the time," Sarid said. "But in the end, we get what we need."

The air force procurement chief said his service has launched an intensive effort over the last few months to raise the level of ammunition, weapons and spare parts. He said the air force has absorbed new U.S. weapons, including the JDAM.

Sarid listed other procurement priorities for 2003. They include the absorption of the F-16I multirole fighter as well as the introduction of the S-70 Black Hawk helicopter. The air force also plans to prepare for the procurement of the B-200 Beechcraft aircraft and the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter beyond next year.