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US to sell Israel six Osprey military aircraft


The MV-22 Osprey. A Boeing photo.

WASHINGTON (AFP): The Pentagon plans to sell six tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft to Israel in a long-planned deal worth $1.13 billion, officials have said.

Israel will become the first foreign country to be allowed to purchase the V-22 Osprey, which can take off like a helicopter and fly like a turboprop airplane.

US officials had announced plans to sell the Osprey to Israel last year but the Pentagon unveiled details of the arms package yesterday in a formal notification to Congress, which has 15 days to raise any objections to the sale.

Apart from the V-22s, the package includes radar, missile warning systems, radios, night vision goggles, navigation systems and other equipment for the Ospreys, according to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency.

"The proposed sale of V-22B aircraft will enhance and increase the Israel Defence Forces' search and rescue and special operations capabilities," the agency said in a statement.

"The V-22B provides the capability to move personnel and equipment to areas not accessible by fixed wing lift assets."

The US Marine Corps has pioneered the use of the Osprey and commanders have touted the aircraft as able to move troops faster and over longer distances than a helicopter.

The Osprey was plagued by accidents and technical problems in its early years but has been heavily used by the Marines in Afghanistan. The Air Force also uses the Osprey for its special operations forces.

The United States has committed itself to maintaining Israel's "qualitative military edge" and provides about $3 billion in grants every year, representing about 20 per cent of Israel's defence budget.

The planned arms sale coincides with strains in US-Israeli relations over Washington's support for an interim agreement on Iran's nuclear programme and diplomatic efforts for Middle East peace.

US officials expressed anger after Israel's defence minister Moshe Yaalon complained about US Secretary of State John Kerry's shuttle diplomacy, suggesting his efforts were futile and naive.

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