Israel Update – Week of June 25, 2023
Military System Collaboration: While the U.S. provides military assistance to many nations around the globe, Israel is the largest beneficiary. In 2018, the U.S. and Israel signed a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which the U.S. pledged to provide $3.3 billion yearly in military assistance along with another $500 million in missile defense. The MOU terminates in 2028, and people are already hard at work on the next one.
A common misconception suggests that in this relationship, the U.S. is the donor while Israel is the recipient. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Israeli military systems have been protecting U.S. soldiers for nearly forty years. The U.S. benefits from Israeli defense ingenuity at a number of levels.
The most basic level is where the U.S. procures Israeli military systems because no U.S. equivalent system exists. A prime example of this is the Trophy Active Protection System (APS). For years, tank manufacturers and Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) manufacturers have been playing a high-tech game of cat and mouse: the tank manufacturer develops the ultimate coat of armor to defend the tank against the most deadly ATGM, and the ATGM manufacturer develops new methods with which to penetrate the latest and greatest armor.
An APS provides a virtual shield around the tank in which approaching missiles are shot down before they can impact the tank. Call it a “mini Iron Dome',' if you will. Israel is the only country in the world with an operational APS, called “Trophy.” Trophy has been defending Israeli tanks against ATGMs for more than a decade with a nearly perfect record. American tanks must rely solely upon their armor, which can be easily penetrated by the latest generation of ATGMs. Israel discovered this in the Second Lebanon War in 2006 where thirty soldiers from the Armored Corps died in battle when Russian Koronet missiles operated by the Lebanese Hezbollah cut through their “impenetrable” armor like a hot knife through butter. In 2007, Israel offered to sell Trophy to the U.S. Army to outfit its M1A2 Abrams tanks. The U.S. politely refused, informing the Israelis that they had an APS of their own in advanced development that was less than 5 years from becoming operational.
In 2011, Israel again offered to sell Trophy to the U.S. Army. Again, the U.S. politely refused, informing the Israelis that they had an APS of their own in advanced development that was less than 5 years from becoming operational. In 2017, Israel offered Trophy for a third time and after passing an exhaustive battery of tests, Trophy was rushed into the U.S. Army. Starting in 2020, the Army began outfitting four brigades (400) of tanks with Trophy. Recently, an order was signed to equip another two divisions. Trophy is co-produced by the Israeli RAFAEL company together with two American companies, Leonardo DRS, responsible for the actual system, and General Dynamics, the tank Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Trophy components are currently being manufactured in 31 companies in 15 states, giving jobs to American workers.
The next level in U.S.–Israel military system collaboration is where the two countries participate in joint development of an Israeli system. An example of this is the David’s Sling Weapon System (DSWS) missile defense system. DSWS was developed to meet an Israeli requirement. The U.S. uses the PATRIOT system to perform the DSWS mission, but when it was determined that the PATRIOT did not meet all of the Israeli requirements, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) decided to develop a new system. It was clear that Israel did not have sufficient resources to develop and field the system so a joint U.S.–Israel development plan was drawn up. Funding was divided between IMOD and the American Missile Defense Agency (MDA). RAFAEL, the prime Israeli contractor, collaborated with Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS – now known as RTX) to design, develop, and manufacture the system. RMS and her subcontractors developed key components such as the Mission Computer (MC), Electronic Safe and Arm Device (ESAD), and the booster motor. System components are now being manufactured in 21 companies in 20 states. The system was developed to U.S. standards, something the Israelis had difficulty at first getting their heads around but eventually found beneficial. While the U.S. has not yet procured the system, DSWS has been defending Israeli skies since 2016 and in May, 2023, it had its first operational intercepts over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The highest level of U.S.–Israeli defense collaboration is where the two countries jointly develop a military system to meet the needs of both countries via codevelopment and coproduction of defense technologies. By pooling their expertise and resources, both countries can accelerate technological advancements and reduce costs. In 2021, the U.S.-Israel Operations Technology Working Group (OTWG) was established to strengthen defense, science, and technical cooperation between the two countries. With bipartisan congressional leadership by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) as well as Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and others, Congress authorized the establishment of the OTWG in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. The OTWS has three primary missions:
Identify vital military requirements shared by both militaries as early as possible.
Receive proposals from American and Israeli industry to quickly meet those requirements.
Establish combined plans to develop and field those capabilities to both militaries as quickly as possible.
The OTWG is designed to fast-track joint military programs by ensuring that all players have visibility of all requirements from Day 1 and by pushing these programs to the head of the line. OTWG has established six working groups:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Autonomy,
Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAS),
Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems, and
All of these working groups are in areas in which Israel has proven capabilities. Working groups have been meeting since 2022. According to the Federation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), who were instrumental in the legislation, “When Israel waits for extended periods for U.S. government agencies to approve combined R&D programs, the urgency of the threats often forces Jerusalem to forge ahead on its own. When that happens, the United States misses out on Israeli agility in fielding new weapons, and Israel misses out on American innovations and economies of scale (i.e., lower unit costs based on larger purchases), depriving Israel of precious opportunities to stretch its finite defense budget. That dynamic also prevents the two militaries from fielding the same capabilities simultaneously, which would facilitate more effective combined training and operations.” Last month, USIEA met with FDD in order to better understand the OTWG and the potential for future legislation.
Speaking of legislation, one recent example is the U.S.-Israel Future of Warfare Act (H.R. 1777/S. 1802), which establishes a research and development fund to deepen defense collaboration to meet these emerging threats. The legislation, written in March of 2023, has wide bipartisan support and is authored in the House by Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC), Jared Golden (D-ME), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Jason Crow (D-CO), Mike Turner (R-OH) and Pat Ryan (D-NY), and in the Senate by Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Ted Budd (R-NC) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
The legislation has two key components:
 It establishes U.S. policy to encourage further defense collaboration with Israel in areas of emerging technologies that can enable both U.S. and Israeli warfare capabilities to meet the challenges of the future, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, directed energy and automation.
 It establishes the “U.S.-Israel Future of Warfare Research and Development Fund,'' authorized at $50 million annually through FY28, which will allow the U.S. and Israel to scale up cooperation in these fields. This legislation is a real improvement over the OTWG as it provides dedicated funding for joint development programs.
It is important to note that the new avenues that pave the way to joint development do not do away with U.S. procurement of Israeli systems. The U.S. Army is procuring the Israeli SPIKE NLOS missile to outfit its AH-64 Apache helicopters. In addition, the U.S. Army is procuring the Israeli Samson gun turrets to protect its fleet of Stryker Fighting Vehicles, and the ROC-X (rebranded as “Point Blank”) loitering munition is being used to arm the soldiers.
Where Israeli systems are available and U.S. systems are not, the U.S. has shown its willingness to procure these systems to answer urgent requirements. OTWG and the Future of Warfare Act are designed to ensure that the U.S. and Israel always have what they require. The past forty years have unambiguously shown that by strengthening their defense collaboration, Israel and the U.S. can enhance their collective security, improve their defense capabilities, and promote regional stability.
Wishing you a quiet week,