As tensions in the region peak and an Israeli attack on Iran remains a possibility, the ministerial procurement committee approved on Tuesday a deal worth billions of dollars between the Defense Ministry and the US for new fighter jets and tankers.
The approval included the procurement of four Boeing KC-46a aerial refueling tankers that are intended to replace Israel’s aging Re’em fleet, converted Boeing 707s.
Sources said that a deal regarding the tankers is expected to be signed by the end of the month.
Last March, the US State Department approved a possible sale of up to eight KC-46 aircraft and related equipment to Israel for an estimated cost of $2.4 billion, marking the first time that Washington has allowed Jerusalem to buy new tankers.
The committee also approved exercising the option to procure another squadron of the advanced F-35 fighter jet and the purchase of new ammunition.
The issue of the procurement of heavy lifters did not come up in the meeting, according to sources. They said that the reason is that there are still disagreements regarding the mixture of helicopters – how many and which kind will be within the limits of the budget.
IAF will have to choose between Boeing’s Chinook and Lockheed-Martin’s Sikorsky CH-53K model.
However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz asked to include the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey in the deal.
This aircraft has the capability for vertical takeoff and the speed of a plane. It may be used to transfer elite units and to protect Israel’s gas platforms. The addition of this costly aircraft might force a reduction in the number of heavy-lift helicopters that will be procured.