Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lavi - A Book Review from Moshe Arens

It was gratifying this past week to see my book reviewed by Moshe Arens, the man who as an Israeli Member of Knesset and later Minister of Defense was instrumental in promoting the launch of the program and its eventual evolution towards the long-range, survivable strike-fighter that it eventually became.

Moshe Arens describes it as an "excellent book," that "describes the Byzantine intricacies that were involved" in the behind-the-scenes political battles surrounding the Lavi program.

Most notably, however, Dr. Arens was also a member of Israel's Cabinet at the time of the Lavi cancellation, going on in his review to provide additional details and insight into the Cabinet vote that ultimately cancelled the Lavi. As Arens illuminates, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres was swayed at the time, among other factors, by the advice of Al Schwimmer. Schwimmer was one of the founders of Israel Aircraft Industries who had gone on the record as opposing the Lavi in favor of launching a "next generation" fighter - presumably a stealth aircraft. The coalition campaigning for the Cabinet to cancel the program therefore spanned between Shimon Peres and the call for a new, more advanced development effort, and former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman who had previously endorsed the Lavi as a lightweight, single-role A-4 replacement - and not as the multi-role, deep-strike fighter that the Lavi had become. In Arens' words:
During the cabinet debate we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of Peres arguing for the cancellation of the Lavi because it was not sufficiently advanced, while Weizman argued for the cancellation because the Lavi was in his opinion too advanced an aircraft.

Of course, no follow-on fighter development effort was ever funded following the cancellation of the Lavi, and Israel's aerospace industry has never fully recovered from the cancellation. Israel Aircraft Industries went from a work force of some 22,000 employees in August of 1987, to 17,050 just one year later, to fewer than 14,000 employees by 1994. Even today, decades after the fact, IAI employs just a little over 16,000 employees.

The cancellation of the Lavi was but one example where decisions that are made on one day, can have far reaching effects that span across decades to come.

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