Gates Says U.S. to Sell Smart Bombs to Saudis

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during his visit to Israel that Washington has decided to sell Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs to Saudi Arabia, Haaretz has learned.

A recent discussion in Washington raised the possibility that Jerusalem would ask the U.S. not to sell the satellite-guided smart bombs to the Saudis, but it was decided to reject this request.

The Israel Air Force itself has purchased the high-accuracy JDAMs, and used them against Hezbollah targets during the Second Lebanon War.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz expressed Israel's opposition to the sale of the weapons to Saudi or other Persian Gulf states during his visit to the U.S. a few weeks ago. Peretz said Israel was concerned the weapons might fall into terrorist hands. Israel also argues that the presence of such weapons in the Arab countries undermines Washington's pledge that Israel will enjoy a qualitative edge in the region - attained mainly by the possession of advanced weaponry.

Articles by Arab security experts in the Western and the Arab press recently have argued that Israel's opposition to the sale of advanced arms to the Arab states has placed the country in a strategic contradiction. According to the head of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, Dr. Sami al-Faraj, various countries in the Gulf have armed themselves as a deterrent against Iran, but while Israel has a great interest in creating focuses of deterance against Iran, it expresses automatic opposition when other countries seek to obtain these weapons.

Washington has rejected such requests from Israel before: surrounding the sale of AWACs and advanced F-16s to Saudi Arabia, and Harpoon missiles to Egypt. Arab experts say satellite-guided weapons can be purchased from Europe or Russia, although there is no comparison between European and Russian technology and that of the U.S.

The main component of the JDAM is not the bomb itself, but rather its tail kit, which can also be installed on an ordinary bomb. The target location is fed to the system by satellite, which can also be done by computer during flight. The computer determines the best moment for the pilot to release the bomb. Pilots and other experts say this type of bomb "can be aimed through a window."