The brutal murder of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh and the ensuing military response has put a spotlight on the often over-shadowed but vital role the Hashemite Kingdom plays in the US-led security coalition in the Middle East.
Along with news of retaliatory airstrikes, early reports of additional US military aid to Jordan have surfaced. But beyond vague references to additional assistance, there is little concrete analysis of what the Jordanians may need or seek from the US and other allies.
In fact, US funding is a vital element of Jordanian military readiness. The modest $300 million in annual Foreign Military Financing (FMF) aid is a mainstay of Jordan’s defense investment account. In recent years this funding has supported: upgrades for Jordan’s F-16 fleet, numbering around 70 aircraft (of which roughly 20 are trainers and unlikely to see operational use), and purchases of the air-to-air AMRAAM missiles and Blackhawk helicopters, the latter largely to support border security and counter-terror operations.
Along with a handful of small training, security, and law enforcement-related programs, Jordan has also received roughly $20 million annually in US Excess Defense Articles, which have included MRAP vehicles in recent years. Additional relevant funding could come from Syria-related Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) accounts, namely the Syria Regional Stabilization Initiative, but this is unlikely to have a significant operational impact in the short run.
In the vital near term, US assistance in fuel, spares, and munitions—EO/IR weapons, laser-guided bombs and other precision-guided munitions – for instance Raytheon’s AGM-65 Maverick – as well as conventional ordnance, would likely be most operationally useful, all geared towards air-to-ground engagement by the F-16s. Jordan’s other fighters, the substantially older F-5 Tigers, are not well-suited for the mission at hand.
To the degree that the Jordanians escalate to include deployment of their rotorcraft assets, Lockheed Martin’s Hellfire missiles or Hydra rockets for Jordanian attack helicopters, largely Bell Cobras (to be supplemented with new Boeing AH-6s) would be in demand. However, range limitations and the fact that these low-flying aircraft would be susceptible to ISIS fire suggests this may not be imminent.
Fixed-wing gunships could also be employed. In recent years, Jordan has armed two CASA-235 aircraft with the help of ATK, to include the aforementioned Hellfires, 70mm rockets, and the M230 30mm cannon, which also graces the Apache attack helicopter. Spares & servicing, replacement missiles, rockets, and ammo for these aircraft could also make a near-term difference.
Finally, Jordan may opt to employ its well-regarded Special Forces, suggesting that logistics support, tactical gear, specialized small arms and other equipment, such as night vision, could see increased use. Indeed, equipment in this category would likely be easiest to deliver and deploy almost immediately.
While larger platforms, such as aircraft, would certainly be welcomed, anything beyond small numbers would put pressure on Jordan’s modest operations and maintenance (O&M) budget. While perhaps not newsworthy, sustainment support described above—rather than new platforms and systems—aimed at keeping Jordanian military operations and equipment running smoothly could have the greatest impact on sustaining Amman’s military machine as it ramps up operations against ISIS militants.