To upstage Romney, Obama signs enhanced US-Israel defense bill (ISRAEL HAYOM) Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff 07/27/12)
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The U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act will be signed
Friday on the eve of Republican rival Mitt Romney´s visit to Israel •
U.S. also announces readiness of largest ever bunker busting missile
and agreement with Lockheed Martin for new Israeli version of the F-
35 stealth fighter jets.
President Barack Obama will give a boost to U.S.-Israeli military
cooperation on Friday when he signs a bill that calls for enhanced
collaboration with Israel on missile defense and intelligence, as
well as increased access to advanced U.S. weapons.
Obama will seek to show American Jewish voters his commitment to
Israel´s security by signing the bill at a White House ceremony,
which appeared timed to upstage his Republican presidential
challenger, Mitt Romney, on the eve of the latter´s visit to Israel.
The new bill, named the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation
Act, was passed with broad support from Democrats and Republicans
last week. It will be signed a day after the U.S. announced that its
largest bunker-buster missile, capable of penetrating underground
facilities, is operational and ready for use if needed. Known as the
Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), the 30,000-pound bomb — which
contains over 5,000 pounds of explosives — was originally designed to
take out hardened fortifications in Iran and North Korea.
The announcement that it is operational comes at a time when the
Western world is increasingly concerned over the potential transfer
of Syria’s chemical weapons, particularly to Hezbollah and other
terrorist groups. The announcement may also be of special concern for
an Iranian regime trying to protect its nuclear installations by
building them deep underground.
“If it needed to go today, we would be ready to do that,” United
States Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the Air Force Times
this week. “We continue to do testing on the bomb to refine its
capabilities, and that is ongoing. We also have the capability to go
with existing configuration today,” said Donley.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, has reached an agreement with Lockheed
Martin Corp. on a $450 million program to enhance electronic warfare
equipment on the F-35 fighter jet, and integrate Israeli-unique
systems beginning in 2016, according to sources familiar with the
negotiations. The deal comes as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
prepares to visit Israel next week where he will discuss heightened
tensions with Iran.
The deal, to be finalized in the coming weeks, marks a big step
forward for Israel´s $2.75 billion agreement to buy 19 F-35 jets,
which was signed in October 2010 and includes options for up to 75 of
the radar-evading fighters.
When it first approved the sale in September 2008, the Pentagon said
the Israeli arms sale could be worth up to $15.2 billion if all
options are exercised.
"This agreement kicks off the Israeli program," said one of the
sources, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "Now all of
the agreements are in place."
The deal will allow increased participation in the F-35 Joint Strike
Fighter program by Israeli companies, including Elbit Systems Ltd and
state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, which will start building
wings for the radar-evading warplane.
IAI already builds wings for the F-16 fighter jet, the world´s most
widely used fighter, also built by Lockheed. Elbit, in a joint
venture with Rockwell Collins, makes the advanced helmet used by
pilots on the single-seat F-35.
As part of the agreement on the development of the new Israeli
version of the F-35, Israel will be able to install its own radio and
data-link systems, as well as other equipment, on the jets it is
But the deal also covers enhancements to the airplane´s electronic
warfare capabilities that will benefit the United States, Israel and
nine other countries that either have already ordered fighter planes,
or plan to in the coming years.
Congress passed the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act
with broad support from Obama´s Democrats and Republicans last week.
"The bill deepens our security cooperation with Israel by expanding
our military assistance and providing Israel with access to
additional equipment," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said on
Obama, criticized by some of Israel´s U.S. supporters for being too
tough on a close ally, wants to shore up his support among Jewish
voters, who could prove critical in battleground states like Florida
and Pennsylvania in the November 6 election.
Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election,
but a nationwide Gallup poll in June showed him down to 64% with
support for Romney at 29%.
Romney hopes his trip to Israel will resonate with Jewish voters at
home. He will arrive there from London on Saturday and will meet
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a strained
relationship with Obama.
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