With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.
Under the contract inked March 5, Israel will install its Phalcon system on three Russian-supplied aircraft for future delivery to India. The Phalcon is an advanced communications, electronic intelligence, and radar system able to provide simultaneous long-range tracking of multiple air and surface targets. The first of the three aircraft will be transferred to India within three to four years.
Israel has been marketing the Phalcon system overseas for several years but has met stiff U.S. resistance. In July 2000, Israel cancelled the proposed sale of four Phalcon systems to China under extreme pressure from Washington, which worried that the system might tilt the military edge in the Taiwan Strait away from Taipei and too much in Beijing’s favor. The United States further called upon Israel to delay a possible deal with India but dropped its objections in 2002 as relations improved between India and Pakistan.
Pakistani government officials expressed their displeasure with the new deal but did so in more reserved tones than usual. One Pakistani diplomatic source told Arms Control Today March 22 that the sale would exacerbate the already asymmetrical conventional-force balance between India and Pakistan and would compel Islamabad to look at ways to lessen the deal’s impact. It is too early to know what those measures might be, the source said.