Israel, U.S. armies in major jeep deal
The Israeli military plans to add 2,500 Hummer jeeps to its fleet in one of the largest procurement deals between the two countries in recent years, Xinhua reported.
The United States deployed the all-terrain vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands have already been shipped home as part of the military's withdrawal in December. Most were low mileage, making them a worthwhile purchase for the Israel Defense Forces' ( IDF) needs, the Yediot Aharonot daily reported Sunday.
The IDF currently operates an undisclosed number of High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), better known in the U.S. Army as "Humvees," in a host of tactical roles, primarily for utility, logistical and scout missions. Many of the vehicles have been modified and upgraded with heavy steel plating, ballistic-resistant windows and other measures meant to provide better protection for troops in urban guerrilla warfare.
The Americans and allied forces deployed unarmored Humvees that often fell prey to roadside bombs, small-arms fire and RPG (rocket- propelled grenade) attacks. Heavy casualties eventually prompted the U.S. Army to launch an emergency armoring program. Some of the armor cladding was manufactured in Israel.
The cost of the deal and delivery date were unclear, although Israeli defense officials said the bulk of the deal will be financed via American military aid funds to Israel, which total some 3 billion U.S. dollars a year.
While senior Israeli officers recently visited the United States to finalize the deal, which also includes heavy trucks and other U.S. military surplus, an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman could not immediately confirm the deal's current status.
The army plans to store most of the fleet in emergency depots, where they will be maintained for wartime use.
In related news, Israel and the United States will launch the largest joint military exercise in the allies' history in the coming weeks, during which they will test their defenses against ballistic missiles.
Some 5,000 troops are scheduled to participate in the maneuver, dubbed "Austere Challenge," in which the Israel Air Force will test its counter-missile and rocket systems, including Iron Dome, Arrow II, Magic Wand and the U.S.-made Patriot.
The Americans will bring along the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a system for intercepting high-altitude missiles in the final stage of their trajectory.
Israel and the United States conduct periodic joint drills that are meant to maintain their militaries' strong ties and share information on new weapon systems.