By Mark Wachtler
January 27, 2014. (ONN) In the middle of the Iraq War when President Bush and the Pentagon chose to re-arm Iraqi Humvees and other vehicles with bomb-proof armor first and US vehicles last, Americans were outraged as the body count of their fallen countrymen and women rose. That scenario could play out again after Defense Secretary Hagel approved the first of its kind sale of V22 Ospreys to Israel.
The V-22 Osprey
While the V-22 Osprey is not a ‘Top Secret’ aircraft like America’s stealth fighters and bombers were throughout the 80’s and 90’s, the V-22 is still categorized as secret. As a result, not a single one of the uniquely advanced vertical take-off planes has ever been sold or shared with anyone – not the UK, Canada or even NATO.
Israeli Defense Forces
As detailed in a report by The Motley Fool last week, there are two newsworthy aspects to this story. First, Israel will be the only country on Earth to gain access to the valuable technology that allows a large transport plane to take-off vertically from any terrain. Second, the Jewish State is being allowed to cut in line and take possession of their V-22’s as soon as they come off the assembly line. Those planes were ordered and earmarked for the US Marines on the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan or whatever other battlefield Americans may be on in the coming years.
The report from the financial news outlet reminds readers that Israel isn’t really buying the aircraft. The Israeli military and the country’s defenses have long been paid for by the US taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars annually for decades. Even still, it’s fairly obvious why America’s Middle East ally would benefit from being equipped with the one of a kind transport plane.
The outlet writes, ‘Hemmed in by Hamas to the west, Fatah to the east, and Hezbollah (and a rapidly disintegrating Syria) to the north, Israel certainly lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Time after time, Israeli special forces are called upon to take pre-emptive action to defuse looming threats - and they can't often fly into a friendly airport to do it.’
The V-22 Osprey
The V-22 Osprey is a unique aircraft with a long and storied past. After watching allies like Great Britain struggle with their own vertical take-off plane experiments in the 1970’s and 80’s like the Harrier Jump Jet, US defense manufacturers began working on a similar design. Except, instead of messing with powerful jet engines, the V-22 would use propellers. And instead of being a fighter, it would be a large transport plane. After all, how often do fighters need to take off vertically? Their duties are in the skies. Transports on the other hand, spend their whole existence taking off and landing.
The US vertical take-off program was originally started in 1981. Bell Helicopters and Boeing were awarded the first contract in 1983 and the first test model of the aircraft was flown in 1989. Due to the problems and complexities with creating a vertical take-off plane that could also hold its own in the sky, the program was riddled with bugs and other problems for years. The US Marine Corps took possession of the first batch of V-22 Ospreys for training in 2000 and deployed them as part of its fighting force in 2007.
The fact that it took US Defense contractors from 1981 to 2007 to finally produce a functioning, problem-free vertical take-off airplane shows exactly why the Department of Defense has been so protective of its proprietary components. Illustrating just some of the plane’s benefits, the above report says the V-22 can take off and land like a helicopter, and carry nearly as much cargo as a giant Chinook. But the V-22 can fly higher and almost twice as fast as the Chinook.
Defense Dept asks Congress to approve sale
Two weeks ago, when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he was approving the request to sell V-22 Ospreys to Israel, the Defense Department sent an official request to Congress to sign-off on the deal. Historically, Congress has never rejected a request for sale approval from the Pentagon. But the Legislature has until today to deny the proposition.
‘The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives,’ a report from MilitaryAerospace.com quotes the DoD’s letter to Congress, ‘The proposed sale of V-22B aircraft will enhance and increase the Israel Defense Forces’ search and rescue and special operations capabilities. The V-22B provides the capability to move personnel and equipment to areas not accessible by fixed wing lift assets. The GOI will have no difficulty absorbing this technology into its current aircraft inventory.’
Two parts of the brief letter to Congress that are probably typical boiler plate verbiage in military sales like these are raising questions this time around. ‘The proposed sale of these aircraft will not alter the basic military balance in the region,’ the notice promises. That seems hardly believable when considering Israel’s known limitations regarding its deserts, coasts, mountains and other landscapes prohibitive of an airport runway. And that doesn’t even include Israel’s repeated ventures into foreign lands like Syria, Lebanon, and even Iraq. As the report says, the IDF can’t exactly use enemy airports to land its troops.
The second part of the DoD letter to Congress that raises questions is Secretary Hagel’s assurance that the sale of close to one-third of America’s future deliveries of V-22 Ospreys to Israel instead of the US Marine Corps, ‘will be no adverse impact on US defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.’ Supporters of the sale insist America’s wars are winding down and pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan is no hurry and not under fire. But critics suggest the V-22’s weren’t ordered by the Marine Corps and USAF for yesterday’s wars. They were ordered for tomorrow’s wars. And if the Obama administration’s penchant for attacking foreign countries is any indication, the US military just might need them.
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