Massive $9 billion purchase includes fighter jets, helicopters, refueling aircraft and ordnance.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Israel’s cabinet approved a massive $9 billion purchase that will see the Israel Air Force equip itself with new aerial refueling planes and transport helicopters to replace the existing aging inventory, Ynet reported Monday.
The strategic acquisition comes out of the $38 billion military aid package signed by the Obama administration that covers the decade between 2018 and 2028. About $30 billion have already been realized with some of that covering procurement debts dating back to 2014. The new equipment will go over that budget by at least $1 billion.
The approval has been two years in the making owing to the three previous Israeli elections that continuously delayed a decision, However, with additional interest payments of at least 200 million shekels ($61 million) starting to accrue, the cabinet took the decision even though it was opposed by the Finance Ministry as the transaction will require the government taking out a $2.4 billion loan to cover the long-term interest and additional costs, the report said.
Finance Ministry officials fear that if a future U.S. administration does not renew the $3.8 billion-a-year in security assistance contract that expires in 2028, Israel would have to bridge the financial gaps of future purchases that could amount to billions of dollars in excess of the state budget. Israel’s cabinet, however, went ahead and approved the proposed procurement.
The move comes amid increasing worries about replacing Israel’s aging transport helicopter and air refueling aircraft. The first of up to six new Boeing KC-46 state-of-the-art giant tankers for mid-air refueling is expected to arrive by 2025.
The deal includes the purchase of additional F-35 and F-15 fighter squadrons as well as thousands of bombs and missiles, but it is not clear which model of helicopter will be acquired. The Sikorsky Super Stallion, the latest version of the CH-53, would require less training for the transition.
At least 20 new choppers are needed to replace the existing Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters that date back as far as the 1960s.
The director general of the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, who is a former head of the air force, warned three months ago that continuing flights in the aging CH-53, designated the “Yasur” by Israel, could endanger the forces as their service life extensions have already exceeded the standards.