Israel has delivered 16 Cobra helicopter gunships to Jordan to help the Hashemite kingdom deal with the threat of Islamic State (ISIS) which currently control large areas along its borders with Syria and Iraq. The transfer provided at no cost was kept in secret since last year but was recently leaked by an unnamed U.S. official and published by Reuters. Jordanian and Israeli officials declined comment, as did the Pentagon.
The handover of helicopters was approved by Washington, after blocking an earlier Israeli plan to sell the surplus helicopters to Nigeria, which is also battling Islamic insurgents in Central Africa. The Israeli helicopters were refurbished by the US Army before their transfer to Jordan.
Israel Ministry of Defense placed those helicopters on its surplus list since 2013, after the Israeli Air Force retired the AH-1F in favor of unmanned aircraft. Jordan is currently operating 32 Bell AH-1F Cobra gunships. Jordan is frequently modernizing its armed forces with surplus aircraft – many of the F-16s operated by the RJAF were acquired from European air forces, including the Netherlands and Portugal. As part of these transactions some of the aircraft are maintained in flying conditions and others are used for spares.
Jordan itself hand over its aging aircraft to other countries. In 2010 the Royal Jordanian Air Force transferred 16 of its older AH-1F gunships to Pakistan, under a US sponsored support program that provided Islamabad with 40 refurbished helicopters. Only 20 of the 40 helicopters were intended for operational use, while the remaining helicopters were cannibalized for spare parts.
Israel originally had two Cobra squadrons – each consisting of around 30 of the aircraft. One of the squadrons was disbanded in the mid-2000s and the other in 2013, as the Israel Air Force transferred most of their missions to pilotless drones.