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Administration Blocks Helicopters for Israel Due to Civilian Casualties in Gaza Print E-mail

May 27, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has blocked Israel's request for advanced U.S.-origin attack helicopters.

Government sources said the administration has held up Israel's request for the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The sources said the request was undergoing an interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

"During the recent war, Israel made considerable use of the Longbow, and there were high civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip," a source close to the administration said.

The sources said Israel has sought to purchase up to six new AH-64Ds in an effort to bolster conventional and counter-insurgency capabilities. They said Israel wants to replenish its fleet after the loss of two Apache helicopters in the 2006 war with Hizbullah.

 The Israel Air Force has also requested U.S. permission to integrate the Spike extended-range anti-tank missile into the AH-64D. Spike ER, developed by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has a range of eight kilometers and was installed on the Eurocopter Tiger and AgustaWestland A129 helicopters.

The sources said the deployment of Spike would require integration into the Longbow's millimeter-wave fire control and acquisition system. They said this would require permission from both Boeing and the U.S. government.

Israel's Defense Ministry and air force have discussed procurement of additional Longbows with the U.S. firm Boeing. But the sources said the Longbow as well as other defense requests have been shelved by the administration amid its review of the potential use of American weapons platforms by Israel.

During his visit to the United States, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also sought to win approval from the Defense Department for the installation of Israeli-origin electronic warfare systems in the Joint Strike Fighter.

Netanyahu was said to have met Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a review of Israeli defense programs with the United States. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was scheduled to meet Gates in Washington in early June.  

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