Israel considers V-22 acquisition
By Alon Ben-David JDW Correspondent
The Israel Air Force (IAF) is seriously considering procurement of Bell/ Boeing V-22 Osprey multimission tiltrotor aircraft, defence sources have told JDW.
The IAF is preparing to issue a request for information in the coming months and is sending its Chief of Air Directorate for Helicopters, Brigadier General 'Tamir', to fly the aircraft in the US.
Offering a range greater than 1,000 km and a speed of 275 kt - much faster than most helicopters - the V-22 is being considered by the IAF for special forces missions as well as search and rescue. "It could provide new dimensions to IAF capabilities, especially now that Israel is facing a distant developing threat from Iran," an industry source told JDW. "With the V-22's air-to-air refuelling capability, the range could even be further extended, providing the IAF with new deterrent capabilities."
However, its unit cost, estimated at USD70 million, might impede such a procurement. "The Osprey is indeed an expensive platform, but it could relieve the IAF from the need to upgrade all of its Hercules and Sea Stallion fleet and [allow it to] decommission some of them," said the industry source.
Most of the IAF's US Foreign Military Funding budget is commited until 2008 to the aquisition of 102 F16I multirole fighter aircraft, totalling US$4.4 Billion. An additional US$600 Million was allocated for th purchase of 18 AH-64D Longbow Apache aircraft and the IAF is seeking a further US$500 Million funding to remanufacture its fleet of AH-64A's to D standard. Apparently the IAF is left with no available budget for V-22 aquisition, but IAF officials are hoping that, with the support of US industry, the US administration will agree to grant special funding for the V-22.