The proposal to equip the Israeli air force (IAF) with the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey has spurred a heated debate in the country’s cabinet.
While many in the Israeli defence forces (IDF) see a clear requirement for the tiltrotor aircraft, others consider it a “nice to have”, and very low on the shopping list.
Last night, a long-awaited meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid ended in complete disagreement – and with talk about elections in March 2015.
If things don’t change in the coming days, a decision on the V-22 seems unlikely – unless the prime minister himself puts it on the table with a tag saying “must decide”.
If this does not happen, Israel may miss an opportunity to purchase the tiltrotor in “special conditions”.
In the wake of the Protective Edge operation in Gaza, the pressure on the Israeli defence budget increased. Demand for more ground systems – like the Israeli-made Namer armoured personnel carrier – moved to the top of the acquisition list.
In January, the US Ministry of Defense notified the US Congress of its intention to sell six V-22 tiltrotors to Israel.
The Israeli air force (IAF) has evaluated the V-22 and concluded that it wants the aircraft. The evaluation was made at US Marine Corps facilities.
The final report was in favour of purchasing “a number” of V-22s for missions defined as “special operations”.
An Israeli source recently said the pressure to purchase more ground systems for the IDF has created a “situation that will lead to the cancellation or postponement” of the V-22 deal.
The source adds that the deadline in the letter of agreement with the USA can be changed to give time for the Israeli cabinet’s defence committee to evaluate the issue again.
The original proposal permits Israel to receive aircraft now in production for the US Marine Corps. This will ensure delivery by the end of 2016. The proposal also included a special price compared with the $1.3 billion cost attached to the aircraft.
After the meeting – which will throw Israel into a few months of political turmoil – a final decision on the V-22 now has a huge question mark hanging over it.