A US Marines V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft kicks up dust as it takes off in 2010 in Afghanistan. The Pentagon plans to fast track the sale of six Ospreys to Israel, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Thursday. (Mauricio Lima / AFP)
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon plans to fast track the sale of six Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys to Israel, allowing the nation to begin receiving tilt-rotor aircraft in two years, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
The deal will allow the Israeli aircraft to jump ahead of US Marine Corps aircraft in the production schedule.
Hagel made the announcement Thursday evening during a speech at the Anti-Defamation League centennial dinner in New York.
The new V-22s will strengthen Israel’s defense capabilities, US officials said.
Prior to Hagel’s visit to Israel earlier this year, the US announced plans to sell Israel the V-22s. Israel is the first foreign purchaser of the advanced tilt-rotor aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter, and rotate its propellers in flight, allowing it to fly fast like a fixed-wing plane.
Earlier this week, following its annual budget review process, Israel sent DoD an official request to acquire six V-22s, according to a senior defense official.
“To ensure that Israel receives the V-22s as soon as possible, the United States Marine Corps is moving Israel to the top of the production line,” the official said. “As such, the United States will fold Israel’s request into the next lot of aircraft to go onto the assembly line, and the Marine Corps will recoup its aircraft at a later date.”
This will allow Israel to start taking deliveries of Ospreys “modified to meet specific requirements” of the Israeli Defense Forces, in roughly two years, the officials said.
The V-22 is made by Bell Helicopter and Boeing. The aircraft is flown by the US Marine Corps and Air Force.