(Photo credit: IDF)
The Department of Defense (DoD) and US intelligence authorities are restricting Israeli air force pilots with dual citizenships from manning F-35 fighter jets, according to the Jerusalem Post.
On 6 January, the Israeli outlet reported that Washington’s move is rooted in “fear of information security and technology leaks,” as the US has been widening its focus on information security and protecting its interests.
According to sources, the Israeli air force has reportedly accepted the restrictions, and Israel, as a result, has ceased assigning pilots to its “Adir” F-35 jets.
This US decision represents Washington’s longstanding concern that sensitive information regarding the design and technology of its combat aircraft will end up in Chinese hands.
US government officials claimed in the 1990s that Israel and China were working closely to produce a new and improved fighter jet for China’s air force, which was to “incorporate extensive technological innovations derived” from the blueprints of the ‘Lavi’ jet. Israeli officials more or less denied this at the time.
The ‘Lavi’ is an advanced fighter jet that the US was working to produce for Israel before the project was scrapped in 1987.
Now, decades later, US media reports that there is “considerable evidence” to suggest that the development of the Chinese air force’s shining pillar – the renowned J-10 ‘Vigorous Dragon’ – was heavily influenced by the US-designed ‘Lavi’ aircraft.
US officials have recently been in contact with Israel’s military over similar concerns, particularly in regard to Israeli-contracted Chinese vehicles. Washington fears that soldiers could ‘tag’ sensitive information through multimedia systems and place them in a cloud where they could be accessible to Beijing’s intelligence.
According to the Jerusalem Post report, however, “a compromise was found on this issue, with sensitive information being transferred to a protected and secure Israeli Cloud system.”
Despite the mistrust and suspicion between the two allies – particularly from Washington’s end – the US and Israel continue to cooperate militarily through war games designed to simulate strikes against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On 4 January, US F-15s and Israeli F-35s began a multi-day, joint drill exercise at Israel’s Nevatim air base, simulating an attack “in ‘deep’ enemy territory.”