SRI LANKA and Israel are finalising the $50 million purchase of eight former Israeli air force Kfir C2 fighter aircraft.

The sale of the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI)-built fighter has been approved by the US administration - clearance was required because the aircraft are fitted with the General Electric J79 engine. IAI has previously experienced difficulty in exporting the Kfir because of US licensing restrictions.

There are no diplomatic relations between Israel and Sri Lanka, but the Israelis have previously sold defence equipment to the Asian island, which has been embroiled in a civil war with Tamil separatists for several years.

The Kfir fighters have been phased out from Israeli air force service in recent years. Israel wants to off-load a significant number of secondhand aircraft on the export market.

IAI has been focusing on the Philippines, South America and Eastern Europe in a bid to export secondhand Kfirs, although, this has yet to result in any sale. Israel has already sold some upgraded Kfirs to South Africa in a programme which started in the late 1980s.

The C2s destined for Sri Lanka will be refurbished by IAI's Lahav plant before deliveries begin in late 1997. The Sir Lankan air force operates a number of obsolescent combat aircraft, including four Chengdu F-7s, designated F-7BS. The Kfirs may be destined to replace this aircraft in the Sri Lankan air force's inventory.

Source: Flight International