Israel presents military overhaul plan


Israel presented a plan for overhauling its armed forces over the next five years.

Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s military chief, announced Monday that the various branches of the armed forces are slated for extensive retraining programs and equipment upgrades.

The plan, which is to go into effect in January following government approval, was born amid Israeli alarm at the setbacks of last year’s war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel has also made little secret of feeling a need to prepare for a possible future conflict with arch-foe Iran and its ally Syria.

Ashkenazi said special attention would be paid to Israel’s ground forces, with new resources earmarked for the infantry and continued production of the Merkava IV main battle tank.

Israel also intends to invest in the air force, its main strategic arm, by acquiring the U.S.-made F-35 warplane when it becomes available in the next decade. On the defensive front, Ashkenazi said Israel would procure Iron Dome, a system designed to stop short-range rocket fire in conjunction with the already deployed Arrow II, which can shoot down ballistic missiles.

Israel spends an estimated $15 billion annually on defense. The burden looks likely to be eased thanks to the Bush administration’s pledge last month to boost U.S. military grants to Israel to $3 billion a year.


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