A Second F-35 squadron or Namer APCs
The IDF General Staff will start discussing the IDF's new multi-year plan –
"Oz", which deals with the possibility of acquiring a second squadron of the
future combat fighter while dramatically cutting the planned number of
Merkava APCs. Elbit and the Sami Katzav Group are preparing for the coming
tender for privatizing IMI, and the great mishap in the issue of Haredi
Amir Rapaport 27/7/2012
Will the IDF acquire another F-35 squadron at the expense of the Merkava
Namer APC project, which will be drastically cut? This is the main question
that will be at the center of discussions over the IDF's new multi-year
plan, which will occur on August 13 and 14.
During those two days, the members of the General Staff will attempt to
ignore the pressing daily events. This will not be a simple task: in the
recent period, many senior IDF officials spent numerous hours at the command
center in the General Staff Kiriya Base in the wake of the dramatic events
in Syria and concerns that Hezbollah might get its hands on strategic
The General Staff will instead discuss the main topics that remain
unanswered with regards to the multi-year plan for force build-up, which is
meant to be the masterpiece of Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz's term as chief of
staff. Gantz was originally meant to launch the "Halamish" multi-year plan
in his first year in 2011. However, the summer of 2011 saw the eruption of
the "Social Justice" demonstrations, just weeks prior to the approval of the
Halamish plan. The demonstrations brought Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu to announce that cuts will be made to the defense budget, and that
the Halamish plan will be postponed by a year, with the excuse that time is
needed to study the implications of the Middle Eastern revolutions.
It was clear that not a single NIS would be cut, even when the words were
spoken. However, the announcement regarding the cut resulted in the IDF and
the defense industries undergoing an irritating "diet" of several months, in
which precious time was wasted in several projects – which have since been
In order to illustrate just how much Netanyahu's declarations were baseless,
notice the words he said this Wednesday, during the graduation ceremony of
the Israeli College for Security and Investigations: "We see the events
transpiring in our region. We know there are regime changes and we know that
many weapons are being gathered in our surroundings. We understand that this
necessitates a change in the composition of Israel's force and a change in
the country's budgets. I say budgets, because there's the standard defense
budget and there are defense branches of ours that are important."
Has anything from these words vanished from the grim intelligence picture
already described in the summer of 2011? Clearly not. By the way,
Netanyahu's speech given at the College was one that was recorded on video.
This is the same ceremony where Minister of Defense Ehud Barak spoke in
person before the graduates, saying that "a nuclear Iran is more dangerous
than the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities."
Back to the multi-year plan: After the passing of the precious time that was
wasted, Gantz reached the middle of his term. He will no longer wear a
uniform in little more than a year, after just three years of heading the
military. If Barak remains the Minister of Defense by then in a given
political situation or another, don't be surprised if he tries yet again to
appoint Major General Yoav Galant in Gantz's place (Galant has been keeping
silent since his appointment as Chief of Staff was cancelled due to the
"Moshav Amikam" affair). In two weeks from now, Gantz will present the new
multi-year plan before his colleagues in the General Staff.
The Oz Plan
The Halamish plan is being replaced by the Oz plan. What both plans have in
common is that both were advanced by IAF persons. Major General Amir Eshel
(presently the Air Force Commander), was the driving force behind Halamish,
and the discussion on the Oz plan is being advanced by the current head of
the Planning Directorate, Major General Nimrod Shefer (formerly the Head of
the IAF Staff). Another thing both plans have in common is that both take
into account a considerable investment in the acquisition of at least one
squadron of F-35 aircraft – which should be supplied to the IAF by Lockheed
Martin by 2017 or 2018.
The surprise in Oz is the examination of potentially acquiring a second
squadron as well (48 aircraft instead of 24). Lockheed Martin is offering
the IAF a "deal" for acquiring the second squadron at a lower price than the
first squadron. The General Staff workshop will discuss the option of
accepting the proposal while dramatically reducing the original plan to
produce hundreds of Merkava "Namer" APCs from General Dynamics' assembly
line in Lima, Ohio.
The decision to establish the US assembly line for Namer APCs was made
during the term of former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. The assumption at
the time was that the IDF will acquire new APCs over the course of a decade.
Gantz, the IDF's current chief of staff, was not a fan of armored APCs (nor
of tanks) even when he headed the Ground Forces in the middle of the
previous decade. Will the General Staff under his command decrease the APC
project? There are those who support this among the political echelon. In
such a case, the Ministry of Defense will have to meet the minimum orders it
guarantied General Dynamics when it established the special assembly line
for the Israeli vehicles.
One of the astonishing things is that the General Staff's workshop will
convene to discuss the Oz plan without the heads of the IDF even knowing
what the defense budget for the next few years will stand at. The
discussions regarding the Israeli state budget are stuck in general, and
it's doubtful that they'll be carried prior to the elections that may take
place at the start of 2013. In the absence of an approved budget, the
deliberations over the Oz plan will be carried out according to two
different budgetary frameworks, with differences between them standing at
approximately three billion NIS per year.
Acquisitions in the framework of the different projects will eventually take
place, according to the budget that the IDF will actually have in the end.
By the way, the "higher" tier embodies a gap of approx. 15 billion NIS over
the five years of the multi-year plan – between the needs defined by the IDF
and the actual budgeting. The difference is that at the lower tier, the
depth of the "pit" stands at 30 billion NIS.
While the General Staff is finally about to begin consolidating the next
multi-year plan, negotiations are greatly advancing towards the
privatization of Israel Military Industries (IMI). The issue on the agenda
is the dismissal of 900 employees from the heavy ammunition production plant
and another 600 employees from other plants. The remaining employees will
receive a wage increase. The state will assume IMI's past debts, and leave a
'clean slate' for whoever acquires the company in whole.
The two companies that appear to be leading with regards to the changes of
acquiring IMI are Elbit Systems and Sami Katzav's SK Group. Both groups have
positive experience with privatizing individual IMI plants – Elbit acquired
the Cyclone aircraft part factory and increased its sales tenfold, and Sami
Katzav acquired the IWI weapon plant and turned it from being in a state of
failure into a thriving success. Who will succeed in getting IMI? Yossi
Ackerman, Elbit's CEO, or Katzav? In any case, the state's tender has yet to
A Missed Opportunity
The following is a story that transpired in 1998 in the living room of Brig.
Gen. Yehuda Duvdevani, one of the founders of the Givati Brigade in its new
form. At that time, he served as head of the Youth and Nahal department at
the Ministry of Defense, and advanced an idea that seemed surreal:
recruiting Haredi youths for a designated combat course in the framework of
the IDF, which would allow them to study a profession after the military
service and become integrated into the job market.
Along with Duvdevani in the living room were two young Haredi men, Yossi and
Roy, and this writer. The initial contacts for the establishment of the
Haredi Nahal course took place during that meeting. Discussions took place
quietly over many long months (there was no shortage of enemies for the idea
among the Haredi populace), and Rabbis were brought in who approve the move
(including members of the Shas political party, which to this day cannot
publicly express their support in favor of the notion of IDF recruitment),
and personnel from the manpower branch.
After nearly ten months of total media silence, I revealed the establishment
of the Haredi Nahal for the first time in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth
Aharonot (I was its military writer at the time), only after it had become
an established fact.
Roy was one of Haredi Nahal's first officers, and would take off the uniform
and switch to standard Haredi clothes when returning from the military to
his home (to avoid shaming the parents in front of their neighbors). Since
then, that phenomenon does not exist: those recruited to the Haredi Nahal do
not change to civilian clothes and are not ashamed of it. The Haredi Nahal
tracks have expanded to include service in the IAF (the Shachar track), the
Directorate of Military Intelligence ("Green Shachar") and more.
200 youths were recruited into the Haredi Nahal program this week, which
indicates that the missed opportunity is even bigger. The potential for
recruitment among the Haredim is considerably larger, and the number of
recruits could have been much larger had the Ministry of Defense employed
more recruiters – there is only one – and had the issue not become a tool in
the hands of politicians.
In any event, with the frenzied rate of events, does anyone even remember
that a unity government fell just last week over the argument surrounding
the issue of Haredi recruitment?