US and Israel Ink Defense Agreements to Supply New Fleet of Helicopters, Refueling Aircraft
The US and Israel signed a $3 billion defense deal on Thursday that will supply the Jewish state with 12 helicopters and two refueling aircraft.
Under the deal, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) will purchase 12 Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky helicopters to replace the Yasur helicopters currently in operation at a cost of $2 billion. A further $1 billion will cover the purchase, under a separate agreement, of two Boeing KC-46 refueling aircraft. According to a statement from the Israeli Defense Ministry, the helicopters and aircraft will be adapted to meet the IAF’s operational requirements and Israeli systems will be integrated into aircraft.
The statement noted that the procurement of these platforms was part of a large-scale program undertaken by the Ministry of Defense together with the IDF over the last year and a half, with the aim of strengthening the IDF’s capabilities, force buildup and preparedness to face existing and future threats, particularly from Iran. Future procurement plans include the purchase of a new fleet of F35 aircraft, refueling aircraft, CH-53K helicopters, advanced air munition, air defense systems, new marine and land platforms as well as cyber systems, the Ministry of Defense said.
Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, described the agreements as “significant milestones in the IDF’s force buildup processes.”
Said Gantz: “We continue to strengthen our capabilities and to change and adapt our Air Force to face future challenges both near and far.”
Thursday’s deal was announced just two weeks after the US reportedly declined an Israeli request to accelerate the delivery of eight new KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tankers through a purchase approved by the State Department last March. Such aircraft would likely be needed in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. However, according to the New York Times, US President Joe Biden’s administration has said the planes will not be delivered until 2024.
Under the terms of Thursday’s deal, the first of 12 helicopters purchased by Israel will not arrive in the country until 2026.