U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is already retrieving jobs for America, while it appears that some Israeli leaders may be outsourcing jobs in the nation’s defense industry. The Israel Manufacturers Association is outraged at a plan to outsource production of the ‘Eitan’ armored personnel carrier in order to purchase the military vehicle with U.S. defense funding.
The wheeled APC was unveiled this past August by the Israeli Defense Ministry. It has an eight-wheel drive and is the first Israeli APC to have wheels instead of tracks; it’s also considered by Israel to be the most advanced armored wheeled combat vehicle in the world.
According to a report published this week by the Globes business news site, the IDF ground forces and Defense Ministry have been considering a plan to limit Israeli production to installation of the systems that will be used in the APC. The vehicle itself would be produced abroad.
But that plan would cost the Jewish State about 2,000 jobs, according to Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh, who told Globes, “Israel has to preserve its technological, security and employment interests and manufacture the Eitan APC in Israel.”
The Eitan is an 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) that is expected to weigh 30-35 tons, have a 750 hp engine, and be able to hit speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour on paved roads. A variant of the vehicle will be able to carry 12 troops, including the commander, driver and gunner, according to Jane’s.
Production of the entire vehicle would add NIS 2 billion to the Israeli economy, according to Manufacturers Association sources. Some 200 industrial companies could be engaged in the process, mostly in the periphery.
The last time the Defense Ministry outsourced production of an Israeli APC was in 2010, when it sent production of the Namer — and 2,000 jobs with it — to the United States, defense manufacturers told Globes.
“Transferring production of the APC to the U.S. will lead to the closing or construction of production lines in dozens of plants around Israel, have a negative impact on exports of systems used in the Eitan and damage the civilian sources of know-how and development based on the technologies used in the Eitan,” warned Merkava tank industries forum chairman Avraham Bar David.
In response to the concerns expressed by the Manufacturers Association, the Defense Ministry issued a statement at the beginning of the week.
‘The Eitan is still in the development stages, and has not yet been approved by the IDF for procurement and mass production,” the statement read. “If and when decisions are taken to produce it, and in what volume, the Ministry of Defense Merkava Tank Administration, which regards the involvement of Israeli industries in the Merkava project as a strategic asset, will take steps to ensure the share of Israeli industries in the project, as it has done up until now.
“We emphasize that after the project is approved, production of the Eitan will take place simultaneously with production of the Merkava and Namer. In view of the increased procurement of armored fighting vehicles following Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli defense industries’ share on all these projects will increase, not decrease.”
According to Brigadier-General Baruch Matzliach, head of the Defense Ministry’s Tank Authority, the Eitan is expected to join the tracked Namer APCs in replacing thousands of aging M113 APCs and other military vehicles still in IDF service.
Matzliach told Jane’s in an August 2016 interview that the Eitan’s main advantage is its “rapid movement on roads and quick mobility between battle sectors without dependence on trailers.”
What he meant was, the APC can move from the north to the south in Israel without the need for a flatbed to shlep it there. That advantage will be particularly important when the IDF next finds itself facing a two-front war with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah in the north, and Gaza-based Hamas in the south.Hana Levi Julian