A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 29, 2009

India Takes Possession of its First Israeli Phalcon

Some may recall a major spat between Israel and the United States back in 1997-2000 over the Israeli agreement to sell its Phalcon airborne warning and control system — essentially the functional equivalent of the US AWACS — to China. It became a major issue and ultimately Israel cancelled the deal. The US strongly objected to Israel transferring this capability to China.

Well, virtually the same defense package — Israel's Phalcon system mounted in a Russian Il-76 — has just been delivered to India.

Indian purchases of Israeli defense exports are increasing, and the Indian and Israeli space programs are increasingly cooperating: in 2008 Israel launched a satellite using an Indian launch vehicle capable of polar orbit from India's launch site, and last month India launched its own spy satellite using Israeli technology, reportedly as a means of improving its space-based surveillance following the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

One doesn't need an advanced degree in geopolitics to see the growing Israeli-Indian cooperation as a response to Pakistan's missile programs, nuclear programs, and the growing concerns about Pakistan's stability. The fact that the Phalcon sale to India, while delivered a bit later than anticipated, did not encounter the strong American opposition that the proposed sale to China had, is also of interest.

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