Antitrust authority holds up IAF trainer purchase

IAF is forced to postpone purchase aircraft for pilot school cadets over concerns that it may create a monopoly and prevent competition.

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November 14, 2010 02:01
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The IAF has been forced to postpone the purchase of a new training aircraft for pilot school cadets as the Israel Antitrust Authority reviews a proposal for leading defense firms to buy the aircraft and lease it to the air force.

The IAF and Defense Ministry had hoped to issue a Request for Information for a South Korean and an Italian trainer aircraft, one of which it would like to buy to replace its fleet of A-4 Skyhawks.

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The Skyhawks served prominently in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and in the First Lebanon War in 1982 but have for the past 20 years or so been used as advanced trainers for cadets in the IAF pilot’s course after they complete their initial flight training on turboprops.

The leading candidates to replace the Skyhawk are Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi M-346 transonic trainer aircraft, in use in Italy and Singapore, and the Korean Aerospace Industries T- 50 Golden Eagle.

The T-50 can carry up to two pilots and, with a high-mounted canopy and tandem seating, allows pilots superior visibility.

It is one of the best trainers in the world. Last year, IAF pilots flew to South Korea to examine the jet.



Closure of the deal has, however, been delayed by the Antitrust Authority over concerns that a joint venture established by Elbit Systems Ltd. and Israel Aerospace Industries to buy the aircraft and lease flight hours to the IAF would create a monopoly and prevent fair market competition.

Due to budgetary constraints, the IAF was hoping that the companies would receive approval from the Antitrust Authority to establish the joint venture and buy the aircraft on behalf of the air force.

Defense officials said they were confident that the Antitrust Authority would ultimately approve the joint venture and allow the deal to move forward with the issuance of the Request for Information.

The IAF wants to buy between 20 and 30 new aircraft.

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