TEL AVIV: Israel has prepared a list of weapons systems it intends to ask the US to add to the American emergency stockpile in Israel as a precaution for future regional conflicts, according to defense sources here.
The list is highly classified, but sources said it includes aerial munitions that Israel predicts would be needed if the military takes action against Iranian nuclear facilities or defends against rocket salvos from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The War Reserves Stock Allies stockpile, established in the 1980s, allows the US to “stockpile arms and equipment at Israeli bases for American use in wartime,” according to a US Congressional Research Service report [PDF], and has included missiles, armored vehicles and artillery ammunition. Later the US amended the rules for the stockpile, saying Israel could have direct access “in emergency situations,” and weapons could be transferred through significantly streamlined Foreign Military Sales channels.
“Officially, all this equipment belongs to the US military,” an Israeli officer is quoted as saying in the 2020 CRS report. “If, however, there is a conflict, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] can ask permission to use some of the equipment.”
That’s happened at least twice, according to CRS: once during the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, and once in 2014 for an Israeli operation against Hamas. (The US also simulated a stockpile weapons transfer for a bilateral military exercise in 2019.)
The Israeli Ministry of Defense declined to comment for this report. Israel has, of course, directly bought defense articles from the US — the US approved nearly $1.5 billion in major arms sales in fiscal 2021 — but a senior Israeli defense source told Breaking Defense that increasing America’s stockpiles in Israel comes with its own advantages. First, since the weapons are owned by the US, they don’t affect Israel’s military budget until they’re needed. Second, while Israel does foot the bill for the systems’ maintenance, they’re stored in US-controlled areas of IDF bases.
Munitions stockpiles are an acute concern for Israeli planners after the country depleted must of its Iron Dome stockpile last year in strikes in Gaza. Breaking Defense also previously reported that Israel would request America’s new GBU-72 bunker buster bomb, seen as necessary both for potential operations against tunnel systems in Gaza or to hit fortified Iranian nuclear sites.
As for whether the US will increase its stockpile, that’s up to the White House, which would determine the policy implications, and Congress, which by law sets the upper limit on the value of munitions stored there. Considering Capitol Hill’s ongoing tussle over direct Iron Dome funding, not to mention its general dysfunction, the future of the US stockpile is murky as ever.
Breaking Defense’s Lee Ferran contributed to this report.