'US rejects Barak's Boeing 767 request'

Channel 10 says refusal comes amid fears sale would appear to support an Israeli strike on Iran.

state-religion survey 224 (photo credit: )
state-religion survey 224
(photo credit: )
The US turned down a request by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to purchase the Boeing 767 aircraft, which can be used for mid-air refueling, amid fears that the sale would appear to support an Israeli strike on Iran, Channel 10 news reported on Thursday. Some 1,000 kilometers separate Israel from Iran, a distance that would play a key role in any attack on Iranian nuclear sites. The IAF already has mid-air refueling capabilities and possesses 63 f-16I fighter jets with an estimated 2,100 kilometer range, which would enable them to strike targets deep within Iranian territory without the need to refuel. Israel also possesses dozens of F-15I long-range fighter jets, which are also capable of flying for thousands of kilometers without refueling. A Barak aide told The Jerusalem Post that he was unfamiliar with the content of the Channel 10 report. Former Military Intelligence officer Col. (res.) Ephriam Kam of the Institute for National Securities Studies at Tel Aviv University said he was unsure whether the report was accurate. "We can already refuel in mid-air," Kam said, adding that the report raised more questions than answers. According to Channel 10, the request was made during Barak's visit to the US last month. On Tuesday, the IDF announced plans to soon bring into service Boeing 707 aircraft, which also can refuel fighter jets in mid-air. Boeing 707s "can refuel other airplanes while in the air, thus enabling them to continue flying," the IDF said. It added that "the last project involving a refueling system took place six years ago." The latest initiative, known as Project Green Salad, will cost the military NIS 80 million, and has been placed under the auspices of Israel Aerospace Industries. "We are talking about a very big project that will give the IAF another refueling system," said Maj. Shlomi Shefer, head of the air force's Aerial Refueling Department. "The fact that the IAF will have another [model] of these aircraft means that more planes will be able to achieve their mission. We expect this aircraft to have the ability to refuel other planes in a short amount of time." The flurry of reports over the air force's long-range capabilities came as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad released yet another declaration in which he predicted Israel's demise. In a message posted on his presidential Web site, he described Israel as a "germ of corruption" that would be "removed soon." The statement comes shortly after Iranian Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashai said the Iranian people were "friends of all people in the world - even Israelis." AP contributed to this report.