Israel's purchase from Italy of 30 advanced jet trainer aircraft for the Israel Air Force, at a cost of NIS 6.35 billion, will be financed in part by an Italian consortium. The group includes the UniCredit Bank and the Italian pension fund Casa, along with the Israeli Defense Ministry and Bank Hapoalim.

The formal contract for the sale of the 30 Italian M-346 jets, which will be used to train Israeli air force pilots, is due to be inked in Rome today between officials from the Italian manufacturer, Aermacchi, and Israeli defense officials.

Aermacchi will receive the entire purchase price from the financing consortium, while Israel's Defense Ministry will pay the consortium in 20 annual payments.

The Finance Ministry in Jerusalem this week provided the Defense Ministry with the required authorization for such a commitment, and a joint committee of members of the Knesset's Finance Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee also gave a nod of approval. The committee was also advised that the deal would include reciprocal purchases of billions of shekels of Israeli-made defense hardware.

Bank Hapoalim will be financing 200 million euros of the deal, which at current exchange rates is about NIS 980 million of the NIS 6.35 billion price tag.

UniCredit is Italy's largest bank and the Casa pension fund is the largest of its kind in the country.