(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the face of Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons, defense officials who will visit the US next week plan to ask the Pentagon to reconsider its decision not to sell Israel the F-22 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Defense Ministry Director-General Pinhas Buhris will visit the US for several days next week to discuss a wide range of security and defense issues, including the continued funding of the Arrow missile defense system as well as the possibility that Israel will receive the F-22.
Israel had asked for the stealth jet - manufactured by Lockheed Martin - last year in an effort to retain its qualitative edge in the region in the face of American plans to sell Saudi Arabia advanced JDAM smart bombs. The Israeli request was turned down.
The IAF did not give up hopes of acquiring the aircraft, particularly since Israel is only expected to begin receiving the stealth Joint Strike Fighter - also known as the F-35 - in 2013 at the earliest. This could be too late to be used if Israel decides to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
The F-22 formally entered operational service in the US Air Force in December 2005, but has not been sold outside America due to a federal law barring export sale of the aircraft.
In recent talks with the US, Israel again expressed interest in the jets, and defense officials told the Post this week that "things were looking positive."
"This would be a major boost for Israel and its image of deterrence," an official said.
Israel is particularly encouraged by remarks made last month by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a visit to Australia. Gates said he would look into lifting the congressional ban on the sale of the F-22 to foreign nations. Australia and Japan have also expressed interest in buying the stealth aircraft.
Buhris will also use his US trip to try to secure funding for the continued development of the Arrow missile defense system.
Israel currently operates the Arrow 2, and in a recent meeting at the Defense Ministry, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved plans to begin developing the Arrow 3, an upgraded version that is slated to have a longer range and be capable of reaching higher altitudes.
Israel is also holding high-level talks with the Pentagon concerning a future Israeli acquisition in a time of war of the Lockheed Martin-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system.
A delegation of officials from Israel's Homa Missile Defense Agency were in Hawaii recently to view a successful test of the system. The US Congress recently allocated $200 million subsidy for Israel's use if it decides to purchase the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
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