Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are seen during Hagel's trip to Israel. (Ariel Hermoni / Israeli Ministry of Defense)
TEL AVIV — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first visit here as Pentagon chief, said V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, aerial tankers and other technologies that Washington is willing “to make available” to Israel will augment Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge (QME) over regional adversaries.
At a joint press conference at Defense Ministry headquarters here on Monday, Hagel said the prospective arms package — to include anti-radiation missiles, advanced fighter aircraft radars, KC-135 refuelers and V-22 Ospreys — “ensures that Israel will maintain air superiority for the next generation.”
Speaking alongside his host, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon, Hagel said the prospective package marks “another significant step” in Washington’s commitment “not only to preserve, but to enhance and improve” Israel’s QME.
Hagel said that “despite fiscal pressures” Washington will provide the full US $3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Israel for 2013. Moreover, in keeping with pledges announced last month during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit here, Hagel said the two countries have begun working on an agreement to extend annual U.S. security funding beyond 2017.
He also noted that to date, Washington has provided more than $460 million in funding for cooperative rocket and missile defense programs, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow. Another $200 million in Iron Dome funding has been requested in 2014, he added.
Under 2008 legislation, Congress defined Israel’s QME as “the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors.”
By law, the U.S. administration is required to submit quadrennial reports on ways it has acted — whether through arms sales, security assistance, joint exercises and other means of strategic cooperation — to preserve Israel’s military superiority in the region.
The first such QME report was submitted in 2009 and a follow-on study is scheduled for release this year.