Israel is once again considering buying Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey helicopters following the cancellation of their acquisition nearly four years ago.
A defense source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Israel will likely decide in the next year or two to purchase the tiltrotor aircraft.
Israel first expressed interest in the aircraft in 2012. Two years later the US Defense Department notified Congress of its intention to sell six Ospreys to Israel in a deal worth $1.13 billion, however, the acquisition process was later frozen following opposition within the Defense Ministry.
Since entering service in 2007, the aircraft has primarily been used by the United States Marine Corps and the US Air Force Special Operations Command. It has seen extensive action in Afghanistan and Iraq supporting long-range rapid reaction and crisis response missions.
Officials from the defense establishment were given a fresh opportunity to assess the capabilities of the aircraft in early March during a joint exercise conducted with the USMC in southern Israel.
Some 650 US Marines trained with Israeli troops as part of the Kaya Green drill at the Tze’elim Army Base in the Negev, during several operational scenarios that included live fire and artillery drills in order to enhance interoperability and cooperation between the two allies.
Several V-22 Osprey tiltrotors operating on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima provided support for the Marines in the exercise, along with several other US military and IAF aircraft.
The aircraft’s ability to fly far and fast, along with its air-to-air refueling capabilities that can allow the aircraft to reach Iran, has led to many to see the V-22 as a possible solution for supporting special forces. Without aerial refueling, the V-22 is capable of flying some 2,300 kilometers.
According to a 2015 report in The Wall Street Journal, Israel sought US “military hardware useful for a strike” on Iran in summer 2012 and the V-22 were “at the top of the list were V-22 Ospreys.”
According to the report, the Ospreys were to drop special forces “behind enemy lines” into Iran to attack the Fordo uranium enrichment facility.
The multi-role combat aircraft uses tiltrotor technology, combining the vertical performance of helicopters (such as take off and landings) with the speed, altitude and range of fixed-wing planes, making them the ideal aircraft for that sort of mission as they do not need runways.
The Israeli military is modernizing its squadrons of aging fighter jets and helicopters and according to the defense source, the air force has understood that there needs to a be a mix of heavy-lift helicopters and the V-22.
The purchase of the tilt-rotor aircraft would make Israel the second country outside the United States to deploy them after Japan, which bought four V-22 Ospreys in July 2016.
As part of the new procurements – funded in large part to the memorandum of understanding signed last year between Jerusalem and Washington which would see Israel receive $38b., in military assistance over the next decade – Israel has purchased two squadrons of F-35 Adir stealth fighters and is currently deciding between Boeing’s Chinook or Lockheed Martin’s CH-53K heavy lift helicopters.
The IAF is also set to decide within the coming months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 jets or the latest Boeing F-15Is, which according to Haaretz
, is what IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin is leaning toward.
“The [updated] F-15I advanced jet is no longer like the [older] F-15I that Israel currently flies,” the source told the Post
. “It only looks like it from the outside. Everything inside the jet is 10 years more advanced than even the F-35.”
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