There has been increasing talk about how the growing Islamic State could one day put Israel in its crosshairs. It is becoming more of an issue within the Mossad, and these worries are transforming into policy. Case in point: Israel gifted 16 AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships to Jordan in an attempt forestall ISIS’ migration to Israel’s borders.
The deal, which occurred months ago and is coming to light now, included refurbishment and updates on the helicopters, all performed by U.S. contractors. The 16 aircraft will be added to the roughly two dozen AH-1Fs Jordan already flies. In the end, the cost to Jordan for the helicopters was nearly nothing.
The AH-1 “Tzefa”served for decades with the Israeli Defense Forces, finally being phased out just a couple of years ago with the much more advanced AH-64 Apache and unmanned aircraft taking over the AH-1’s role. Although they’re comparatively old, the AH-1 remains a potent counter-insurgency, anti-armor, and border patrol weapon system and costs much less to operate than its heavier and more complex Apache successor.
Specifically, Jordan’s new (to them) AH-1s will be used for border monitoring and for engaging any hostile forces infiltrating into the country from Iraq or Syria. This ‘stop them there before they get here’ strategy is mutually beneficial to both countries, which have seen each other as regional security partners for the last few decades.
Jordan has been especially willing to take on ISIS after recognizing it as a legitimate threat. Jordan’s King Abdullah has asked the U.S. hat in hand for more help to fight the terror state ever since their captured F-16 pilot was burned alive in a steel cage as part of an ISIS propaganda video.
So far, the U.S. has provided targeting, logistical, and some material support to Jordanian forces, resupplying them with some air-to-ground munitions and ancillary items like night vision goggles. The U.S. has also fast-tracked the sale of other key capabilities, like advanced targeting pods. This was especially necessary as it became clear during Jordan’s response to the killing of its pilot that it lacked the ability to target precision-guided weapons across its second-hand F-16 fleet.
Some would argue that the U.S. could and should do much more for Jordan than it already has when it comes to supporting its fight against ISIS, as it’s better they settle in for a long-term regional conflict than us. Still, 16 Cobras are a significant addition to Jordan’s arsenal and are very well-suited for their intended purpose.
But if ISIS continues to gain power, even while under constant bombardment, it is likely that much more will be needed.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.