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May 23, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Israel-China link
Defense intelligence officials said this week that China's new J-10 jet fighter was built with the help of Israel, under the U.S.-sponsored Lavi jet fighter program canceled back in 1987.

"China's J-10 program was assisted by engineers who worked on the Israeli Lavi program," one defense official told Inside the Ring. "The J-10 and Lavi share many of the same design elements."

According to the officials, Russia also has helped with the J-10 program, helping Beijing to develop a new J-10 engine to replace the current one a Chinese copy of the CFM-56 jet engine developed jointly by General Electric and the French company Snecma.

The J-10 was under development in secret for years but its deployment was only acknowledged by Beijing in January 2007. It is considered a fourth-generation fighter-bomber comparable to the U.S. F-16.

The defense officials' comments followed a report in Jane's Defence Weekly stating that the J-10 is a close copy of the Lavi jet, and that Chinese developers had access to a Lavi prototype in Chengdu, where the J-10 was designed and built. Documents in Hebrew on the Israel Aircraft Industries jet also were observed by Russian engineers, the magazine stated.

The Lavi was developed with $1.8 billion in U.S. aid to Israel. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2005 sharply restricted U.S. military technology sharing with Israel over concerns about Israeli-Chinese military cooperation.

The Israeli-Chinese J-10 cooperation involved "decades"-long exchanges between Russian, Israeli and Chinese aircraft developers, the magazine stated, quoting Russians involved in the program. The cooperation included extensive design and performance modeling, wind-tunnel testing and advanced aerodynamic design input.

Richard Fisher, a specialist on China's military with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the J-10-Lavi cooperation "confirms the need for continued American vigilance to prevent military technology sales to China from Israel or any other ally."

"This is now a tragedy for the people of Israel and the United States, given the high chances that China will sell the J-10 to Iran," he said, adding that Israel should fully disclose the extent of military cooperation with China, "a country that aids the enemies of Israel, and threatens America and many of its allies."

An Israeli Embassy spokesman said he is checking the report. A Chinese Embassy spokesman could not be reached.

Chinese and Israeli officials in the past have denied any links between the J-10 and the Lavi.

Sex in Afghanistan
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, recently loosened restrictions on sex between unmarried men and women in combat zones but is continuing to discourage intimate fraternization.

Activities strictly banned in the past are now "strongly discouraged," according to a memorandum from Gen. Schloesser, head of Combined Joint Task Force-101.

The memo from the two-star general contained General Order 1 issued April 19 that modified earlier rules limiting contact between single troops, as well as civilians working for the U.S. military. Previously, men and women were not permitted to be alone behind closed doors, unless married.

The new order states that two people of the opposite sex can now be together by mutual consent of those in an area, and if the door of the quarters is left open.

"Sexual relations in a deployed environment can have an adverse impact on unit cohesion, morale, good order and discipline," the memo stated. "Accordingly, sexual relations and intimate behavior, not otherwise prohibited by the [Uniformed Code of Military Justice] between individuals not married to each other, are highly discouraged." Lower ranking commanders who seek more restrictive rules must first seek approval from Gen. Schloesser, it stated.

Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, spokeswoman for the task force, disputed a report in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, which first reported the new order, that it will be easier for single troops and civilians to have sex.

"As the order exists now, I personally cannot imagine a scenario in which unmarried individuals can have intimate sexual relations," she said. "I personally do not believe that a general order stops such relations anymore than the existing regulations and UCMJ do."

According to Col. Nielson-Green, the change "simply allows commanders at levels below the commanding general to remedy cases of sexual misconduct" and brings task force troops under rules in use in Iraq and other Central Command deployment areas.

Tactical nukes
The current House version of the fiscal 2009 Defense Authorization bill contains a provision that would require the Pentagon to report annually on the threat posed by tactical nuclear weapons.

The $601 billion bill contains language stating that numerous "nonstrategic" nuclear weapons are deployed by various countries and "their prevalence and portability make them attractive targets for theft and for use by terrorist organizations." "The United States should identify, track, and monitor these weapons as a matter of national security," the bill states, noting that a report should assess the risks of these arms being obtained by rogue states, terrorists and non-state entities.

The measure appears aimed at countering tactical nuclear arms, including so-called "suitcase" nuclear weapons that actually are steamer trunk-sized bombs, developed during the Cold War by both the United States and Soviet Union. According to Russian officials in the 1990s, not all of Moscow's portable nuclear weapons have been accounted for since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Minuteman test
A U.S. Air Force Minuteman III strategic missile lit up the early morning sky over Southern California yesterday as part of test launch of the long-range missile.

An Air Force spokesman from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., said the missile launch at 3:04 a.m. PDT flew a southwest course. Its simulated warhead hit a ocean target 5,250 miles away in an area 230 miles southwest of the Pacific island of Guam.

The flight test was about 1,000 miles longer in range than most tests and successfully hit its target, the spokesman said.

Pentagon officials said the Minuteman III test was a routine reliability test of the nuclear delivery system. But it also will be used as part of a plan to convert up to 50 of the 500 Minuteman IIIs from nuclear to conventionally-armed long-range missiles, as part of what the military calls deep strike, or the capability of conducting very rapid long-range conventional attacks against weapons of mass destruction or terrorist targets.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

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