United States is Israel’s Leading Foreign Missile-Tech Supplier

Since the mid-1970s, the United States has openly supplied Lance missiles and missile production technology to Israel. In addition, illicit sales of U.S. technology have helped Israel build the Jericho-II nuclear missile.

Lance: The United States supplied the 130-kilometer-range Lance missile to Israel in 1975. Israel is supposed to use the missile only with conventional warheads, but the missile is a nuclear-capable system. At the time of the transfer, the United States had already deployed Lance missiles in Western Europe with nuclear warheads weighing up to 210 kilograms and having yields from one to 100 kilotons. Ten kilotons almost the power of the Hiroshima bomb is typical. Israel is reported to have a nuclear missile warhead light enough for the Lance to carry.

Popeye: With U.S. help Israel has developed and deployed an air-to-surface, standoff missile called the “Popeye.” The missile was used successfully with conventional warheads against Syrian forces in Lebanon in 1982 and 1983. The U.S. defense contractor Martin Marietta co-produces the Popeye with the Israeli defense firm Rafael. The Popeye’s 365-kilogram warhead is optically-guided by a television camera mounted in the missile’s nose. It is said to have an accuracy of centimeters at ranges up to 80 kilometers. A lighter and longer-range version, the Popeye-2, is under development.

Arrow: Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is currently developing and testing a defensive missile known as the “Arrow.” Designed to intercept incoming missiles well before they reach their targets, the Arrow can fly five to ten times the speed of sound to a range of 90 kilometers. The United States pledged to help finance the Arrow project in 1986 as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative, and agreed in 1988 to pay about 80 percent of the research costs. A four-year extension of the program was granted in April 1994. There is strong U.S. support for the Arrow, but there has been some concern over how to ensure U.S. exports to the Arrow are not diverted to other missile projects. “The nonproliferation community scrutinizes very carefully U.S. exports to the Arrow, but it’s easier to track the equipment than the technology,” a U.S. official told the Risk Report. “There are inherent risks in providing things that are fungible like technology.”