Last night, Gawker got a tip from a longtime reader: "I get a lot of emails for a different person with the same name as me," the message said. "Someone who works in some capacity in the government. I don't know if this one I just received about Israel, missiles, etc is even a thing." Yes, it's a thing.
Our reader appears to have received internal Army correspondence regarding the U.S. military's ongoing agreement with Israel to sell and maintain Patriot missile systems. We've embedded those messages below; click to enlarge.
The messages seem to pertain to a collection of aging Patriot missiles that are slated for "demil," defusing and dismantling in favor of newer weapons—perhaps the Army's upgraded PAC-3 Patriot missiles.
The emails start with a request from a worker in the Army Missiles and Space Program Executive Office; that's the office that manages all the high-tech missile hardware needs for the U.S. military.
He communicates with another civilian in charge of Patriot missiles at the Army Security Assistance Management Division—the department that oversees foreign military sales to U.S.-friendly governments—as well as a contractor at Wyle Laboratories, which provides rocket science to Uncle Sam.
"Israel had stated that they want to take a couple of these and use for MADF training," he asks his counterparts, referring to training on the Patriot program's missile assembly and disassembly facility procedures. "We could drill holes in the warhead shell and consider them DEMIL'ed so they could use them for this purpose." Then he adds that "the 29 to be destroyed" can be pillaged for spare parts, including safety devices and guidance systems, if the Israelis "still wish to do this."
He gets an answer in the affirmative, presumably after the plan has been approved by "Major Brener" of the "IAF"—possibly the Israeli Air Force.
At some point, he asks the contractor from Wyle for the email address of another player who needs to be looped into the Israel deal. That's when she apparently CC'd the wrong email address for that player, accidentally forwarding the thread to the Gawker reader.
The Patriot system, which became famous as a "Scud buster" during the first Gulf War, is a defensive array that can intercept incoming enemy ballistic missiles and aircraft. It's no secret that the U.S. sells those systems to at least 11 friendly nations, including Israel, which has a clear interest in defending its territory against air attacks. Via the Israel Defense Forces, here are some pictures of IDF Patriot missile soldiers working with their U.S. Army counterparts:
And here's footage of a U.S.-built missile battery in place, reportedly near Haifa, Israel:
It's unclear whether this is a routine request or is related to a higher military operational tempo arising from Israel's operations in Gaza, but the former seems likelier. The rockets being launched at Israel by Palestinian militants are too small a target for Patriot missiles; instead, Israel relies on newer defense systems like the vaunted "Iron Dome." But it keeps Patriots around for bigger airborne threats that might come from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, or elsewhere. (The Patriots and Iron Dome systems are both built with help from the same U.S. defense contractor, Raytheon.)
Even if it's a routine request, the email thread offers an interesting window into how much bureaucracy the U.S. military dedicates to serving its allies' weaponry needs.
And also, how easy it is to email that data to some Gmail user who reads Gawker.
For a bonus, here's one of the slides the U.S. Army shows its counterparts from friendly militaries when trying to sell them Patriot missiles. Very straightforward.
Also, here's the email thread in text form.
From: "Looney, Mary" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: July 24, 2014 at 2:36:52 PM PDT
To: "Turner, Ronald L CIV USARMY PEO MS (US)" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Israel DEMIL
From: Turner, Ronald L CIV USARMY PEO MS (US) [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2014 4:18 PM
To: Looney, Mary
Subject: FW: Israel DEMIL
I don't have ——'s email address
We need to put together a quick modification to the Israel demil plan
See option a and b below
I need a real quick turn around on this one if at all possible
From: Duncan, James E CIV (US)
Sent: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1:02 PM
To: Turner, Ronald L CIV USARMY PEO MS (US)
Cc: Spencer, Billie E CIV (US); Boyett, Georgia D CIV USARMY PEO MS (US); Duncan, James E CIV (US); Vargas, Luis D CIV USARMY PEO MS (US)
Subject: RE: Israel DEMIL
MAJ Brener would like to phrase it that Israel would like to have:
a. The option to harvest S&A devices, Radomes, CAS, or exit nozzles with IAF notifying LTPO of any parts that were harvested from SN missiles.
b. The option to convert 2-3 missiles to training rounds as you discussed below and provide the SN to LTPO
Redstone Arsenal, AL 35895
From: Turner, Ronald L CIV USARMY PEO MS (US)
Sent: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:17 AM
To: Duncan, James E CIV (US)
Cc: Spencer, Billie E CIV (US); Boyett, Georgia D CIV USARMY PEO MS (US)
Subject: Israel DEMIL
I have the draft approval letter in Wendi Weavers office for the PM to sign.
Questions - Israel had stated that they want to take a couple of these and use for MADF training. We could drill holes in the warhead shell and consider them DEMIL'ed so they could use them for this purpose. Do they still wish to do this? If so, I could draft up a modification to the DEMIL letter.
Also, the 29 to be destroyed has S&A devices that have never been recertified. We could also remove them, any Radomes or exit nozzles they may need for future programs. If they still wish to do this I could also include that in the draft modification.
This could all be done rather quickly and not hold up the LPTO approval.
Let me know
Know anything more? Add your tips and insights below.
[Photo credits: IDF Blog]