China jet carried Israeli weapon
By Dan Ephron, Globe Correspondent, 4/16/2001
JERUSALEM - The Chinese fighter that collided with a US spy plane two weeks ago was equipped to carry Israeli-made air-to-air missiles, and earlier footage purportedly of the same plane showed the Israeli armaments, according to analysts here who examined the videotape released by the Pentagon.
This assessment, reported in two Israeli newspapers yesterday, touched off worried speculation here that ties with the United States, Israel's most important ally, could be strained over the affair.
The footage, issued by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a news conference Friday, was taken three months ago. It shows what Pentagon officials reportedly said was Chinese pilot Wang Wei flying a mission in the same plane he flew on April 1, the date of the collision.
The Israeli analysts said the video clearly shows the plane carrying two Python 3 missiles, and added that Israel had been selling the missile to China since the late 1980s. They said the plane would probably have been carrying the missiles on the day of the crash, though no photos of the plane from April 1 have been released.
Israel's state-owned military firm, Rafael, developed the Python 3 more than 30 years ago and probably received US approval to sell it to Beijing, according to the analysts. Still, several Israeli officials voiced concern over the mere idea that Israeli military hardware could have been used by a third party against the United States.
''We're not happy about it,'' said one Israeli defense official, who refused to be named, when asked about the report. ''It's a delicate situation,'' he said.
Israel is widely believed to have been selling arms to China for the past 20 years, though neither country divulges details of the deals. Washington has restricted arms sales to China in the past and has pressed its allies, including Israel, to follow suit.
Last July, Israel canceled a $250 million contract to supply China with a Phalcon spy plane after coming under intense pressure from US officials, who said the Israeli technology might endanger US servicemen operating in the area.
But the analysts said Israel had probably made the Python missile technology available to the United States, allowing Washington to equip its pilots with counter measures.
When it comes to older hardware, like this missile, the United States is generally willing to let Israel transfer weapons to China, said military analyst Danny Shalom, a specialist on Israeli Air Force weapons systems.
Shalom was the first analyst to identify the Israeli missile in the Pentagon footage.
The Python 3, a heat-seeking missile, was used by Israeli aircraft to down dozens of Syrian planes in the 1982 Lebanon war.
Most Israeli planes are now equipped with a more sophisticated version of the missile known as Python 4.
Israel's military sales to China, which have amounted recently to about $50 million a year, have at times caused friction between Washington and the Jewish state.
Press reports charging that Israel illegally sold US Patriot missile technology to China prompted an American investigation in 1992 which found no evidence to support the allegation.
Other reports allege Israel is helping China build its F-10 fighter plane with avionics and radar from the canceled Israeli Lavi project, which incorporated American technology.
Israel denies transferring any American technology without prior
This story ran on page A7 of the Boston Globe on 4/16/2001.
Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
China's Israeli rockets seen on U.S. photo
By Amnon Barzilai,
Ha'aretz Defense Correspondent
Chinese F-8 fighter planes, like the one that crashed with an American reconnaissance aircraft on April 1, carry Israeli-made Python 3 missiles, a photograph of the plane in question has revealed. The photograph, taken in January and clearly depicting the air-to-air missiles manufactured by Israel's Rafael Armament Development Authority, appeared on films released recently by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and distributed yesterday by the Associated Press.
Officials in Israel's security establishment have expressed concern in recent days that the showdown between China and the United States is liable to deliver a mortal blow to deals prepared between Israel and China involving the sale of weapons and sophisticated electronic security systems.
The video clip shows the Chinese plane during an air maneuver conducted in January, over the South China Sea, providing no indication of whether the F-8 was carrying the Python missiles when it crashed with the American EP-3 surveillance plane at the start of April.
Python 3 missiles were sold secretly by Israel to China during the 1980s, before diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally established. At the time of the transaction, Python 3 missiles were considered highly advanced; Israeli governments and Rafael refused to acknowledge the sale of the missiles to China.