The Israeli air force hopes to receive its first of 25 Beechcraft T-6A Texan II trainers in January 2009.
T-6As were chosen in June as the favoured replacement for Israel's ageing CM-170 Zukit (Fouga Magister) trainers, and the Israeli government has notified Washington of its intention to purchase the aircraft with US-supplied foreign military funds. The deal is worth $190 million.
The selection has been criticised on the grounds that training pilots in a turboprop aircraft will leave them with a very big skills gap when they move to the air force's McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks and, in the future, directly to Lockheed Martin F-16s.
However, in addition to providing students with access to a modern aircraft using advanced avionics equipment, Israel's introduction of the T-6A will cut its fuel consumption by 66%, according to the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Maintenance costs should also be reduced. The formerly Raytheon T-6A is already in service with the Greek air force, the Bombardier-run NATO Flying Training in Canada system and provides JPATS training for the US Air Force and US Navy.