How much military aid will the US give Israel?

Pentagon increases military deliveries to Israel, already the biggest beneficiary of such aid

Israeli soldiers by the border with Gaza on Tuesday. Reuters
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Already the biggest recipient of US military aid, Israel is about to get much more Pentagon assistance as it retaliates against the Hamas attacks and deals with the possibility of a multi-front war.

A US aircraft carrier and other naval assets arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday, and Israel received its first shipments of US military aid since the Hamas assault.

The Biden administration indicated it is ready to respond militarily to countries or non-state groups seeking to attack its ally.

The presence of the USS Gerald R Ford carrier strike group comes as the Pentagon rushes artillery rounds, smart bombs and interceptor missiles to Israel for what could become a drawn-out fight with Hamas in a conflict that has already seen nearly 2,000 people killed in Israel and Gaza.

Warning signs are flashing that the conflict could broaden. Hezbollah in southern Lebanon has fired rockets into Israel, and Israel's military responded with artillery fire from the Golan Heights after munitions were launched towards the former Syrian territory that Israel has occupied since 1967.

The US and Israel are also closely monitoring Iran, although they have not directly blamed Tehran for the Hamas attacks.

“Let me be clear: We did not move the [aircraft] carrier for Hamas. We moved the carrier to send a clear message of deterrence to other states or non-state actors that might seek to widen this war,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

The US military's Central Command said F-15s, F-16s and A-10s had been sent to the region to augment existing fighter squadrons there.

US defence officials told The National that Israel has a significant list of military requests it seeks for its siege of Gaza and continued military response to the attacks.

Israel is already America's top beneficiary of US security assistance, receiving $3.3 billion annually to bolster its military under a 10-year bilateral military aid memorandum that runs until the end of 2028.

Israel and the US have close military ties and many of their weapons systems are compatible. The Iron Dome missile defence system is made in Israel while its interceptor rockets are partly built in the US by Raytheon.

Israel is also given access to cutting-edge US technologies to ensure it has a “qualitative military edge” over its neighbours, and is part of the F-35 fighter programme.

Still, one defence official noted that the Pentagon will not necessarily supply Israel with every item it has requested, and requirements are likely to evolve.

“Whatever is going to be provided is going to be the result of discussions we are having with the Israelis,” the official said.

When asked whether the supply of artillery shells of various calibres will affect munitions deliveries to Ukraine as it wages a counter-offensive against Russia, another defence official said that supplies are sufficient for now.

“We still feel confident we are able to provide Ukraine with what it needs,” the official said. “We have stockpiles all over the world that we are able to use if needed.”

Officials noted that Ukraine's and Israel's military needs diverge. Israel's focus is on smart bombs and interceptors for use in tightly packed urban areas, whereas Kyiv needs all the artillery rounds it can get for a front line stretching across hundreds of kilometres of countryside.

Mr Sullivan said US President Joe Biden had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss what additional military capabilities Israel might need.

“He pledged that American planes will be landing in Israel with those capabilities in the days ahead,” Mr Sullivan said.

He said the US would be sending Israel more Iron Dome interceptors and ammunition, as well as looking into ways to “augment the nation's air defence capabilities"

Bloomberg on Tuesday reported that Boeing has accelerated the delivery of 1,000 smart bombs to Israel.

The Small Diameter Bombs, part of a 2021 contract, were flown from an Air Force base in the US by Israeli military transport, according to an industry official.

The weapons can launched by Israel’s jets from over 64km away.

They “provide the means to precisely target terrorists in Gaza while minimising civilian casualties", Brad Bowman, a military analyst with the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told Bloomberg.

Mr Bowman said it was an important capability considering that Hamas is holding Israeli hostages.

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Updated: October 10, 2023, 11:05 PM