Douglas M. Bloomfield

Run Silent, Run Deep, Run German

Today’s Israeli Navy defends its nation’s shores in German-built U-Boats, and Germany’s Luftwaffe is flying Israeli-built aircraft. Now the word is the two countries are going to collaborate on developing smart missiles that could some day be used by the Saudi Air Force.

Israel has three U212 Dolphin class attack submarines, two more under construction and it just ordered a sixth. Unconfirmed reports say some or all of the subs are capable of firing nuclear-armed cruise missiles. That would give Israel a second-strike capability in the event of nuclear attack. At least two of the quiet, diesel-power boats have gone through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean in a not-so-subtle message to Iran.

The newest sub, like the others, will be built in the shipyard at Kiel on the Baltic Sea. Defense Industry Daily reports the design "evolved from Germany’s famous and ubiquitous U209 Class." One hitch: Norway has reportedly refused to allow Germany to test the boats in its waters.

The Luftwaffe meanwhile is using Israeli-built Heron UAV’s (drones) in Afghanistan — as are Australia, Canada, France, according to trade journal Defense Industry Daily. The unmanned Heron provides real time intelligence above a battlefield or enemy territory.

Israel and Germany are jointly developing an air-to-ground smart missile based on an existing Israeli missile, the Spice, which is operational on Israeli F-15s and F-16s and reportedly can hit targets more than 60 miles away. The new missile would be sold with the Eurofighter, currently in service with several air forces, including Saudi Arabia’s. It is not known yet whether Israel would try to block the sale of the missile to the Saudis, but if the past is any indicator, Israel could approve the transfer. There is a little-known precedent.

In 1981 the Reagan administration wanted to sell the Saudis AWACS early warning aircraft and enhancements for their F-15s, including conformal fuel tanks (CFT) to extend the range of the planes and increase their weapons load. I was leading the lobbying against the sale on Capitol Hill for AIPAC as its legislative director; the House voted overwhelmingly to block it but the Senate approved it by only two votes.

What we didn’t know at the time was something I learned a few weeks later during a visit to the Israel Aircraft Industries factory at what is now Ben Gurion Airport. That’s where IAI was building CFT’s for the Israeli and American F-15s, among others. I was surprised to see some of the fuel tanks sitting in wooden crates addressed and ready to be shipped to the Royal Saudi Air Force in Saudi Arabia. There was no Israeli identification that I could find, and the crates were marked with a return address of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I wonder if the Saudis knew that at the time, and, if not, when and how they actually found out. And now that they know it, would they admit it?

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.