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Amid Iran tensions, Israel said to ask US to speed up delivery of air refuelers

Israel has asked the US Department of Defense to speed up delivery of its KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft, as tensions rise with Iran.

In March the US Department of Defense announced approval to sell new KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft to Israel, with delivery expected in four years.

However, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that Israel has requested that the aircraft be delivered within two years.

The report came amid an uptick in tensions with Iran, with Tehran on Tuesday calling for action against Israel following a recent blast at the Natanz nuclear facility that has been blamed on Jerusalem.

Iran appeared to publicly acknowledge on Tuesday that last week’s fire at Natanz, which badly damaged a building used for producing centrifuges, was not an accident.

Israeli TV reports, without naming sources, have said the blast destroyed the laboratory in which Iran developed faster centrifuges and set back the Iranian nuclear program by one or two years.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets can reach “anywhere in the Middle East,” following threats against Israel by senior Iranian officials.

The F-35 stealth jet is not believed to have an effective range to reach Iran unassisted, but it could conduct operations there with in-air refueling.

Israel is to buy up to eight of the Boeing-built KC-46 refueling aircraft and related equipment for an estimated $2.4 billion.

The multi-role aircraft makes mid-air refueling possible for fighter jets and other aircraft, but can also be used for military transport.

The planes would replace the Israeli Air Force’s current fleet of aging refueling planes, which includes KC-130 Hercules and converted Boeing 707s.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Israel’s having its own KC-46s would help back up the US military’s own, “potentially freeing US assets for use elsewhere during times of war.”

The proposed sale came despite delays in the Pegasus program, with the main question about the design of its refueling function.

The US Air Force has found significant problems with the KC-46’s remote vision system, essential in trying to line up and attach the refueling boom to the aircraft seeking to fill up its tanks.

US Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said earlier Boeing was being pressed to address the problem.

Additionally, on Tuesday the US came closer to fully approving the sale of 990 million liters of special jet fuel to Israel, to be purchased with $3 billion of US defense aid money.

According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the sale will include JP-8 aviation fuel, diesel, and unleaded gasoline, but must be approved by the US Congress before a contract can be signed.

Source: TOI Staff and AGENCIES

Notes:

The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Israel of up to eight (8) KC-46 aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.4 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.

The Government of Israel has requested to buy up to eight (8) KC-46 aircraft; up to seventeen (17) PW4062 turbofan engines (16 installed, 1 spare); and up to eighteen (18) MAGR 2K-GPS SAASM receivers (16 installed, 2 spares).

Also included are AN/ARC-210 U/VHF radios, APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe transponders, initial spares and repair parts, consumables, support equipment, technical data, engineering change proposals, publications, Field Service Representatives (FSRs), repair and return, depot maintenance, training and training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, U.S. Government and contractor representative support, Group A and B installation for subsystems, flight test and certification, other related elements of logistics support and training.

The principal contractors will be Boeing Corporation, Everett, WA, for the aircraft; and Raytheon Company, Waltham, MA, for the MAGR 2K. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of two U.S. field service/contractor representatives to Israel.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.