The United States will expedite the delivery of the new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircrafts, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced at his address to the Anti-Defamation League centennial meeting in New York on Thursday evening.
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The Israel Air Force, he revealed, will purchase six such aircrafts. The Osprey, which takes off vertically and hovers like a helicopter but flays horizontally like a plane, is used primarily to transport special forces deep into enemy territory.
Hagel announced that he had instructed the U.S. Marine Corps to speed up the delivery of the Ospreys to Israel, as part of the Marines’ next order for this aircraft. The Marine Corps is the chief client of the Osprey. Another important client is the United States Special Operations Command.
Unofficial figures put the cost of a V-22 Osprey, manufactured by Bell Boeing, at about $70 million. The aircraft has a range of 1,600 kilometers and can transport 24 military personnel at a top speed of 400 k.p.h. (250 m.p.h.).
The operational significance of the acquisition is that the IAF will be able to put a formation of these helicopter-planes into the air and transport an entire special forces company to a distant location, including Iran. Once the mission is accomplished, the forces could then leave enemy territory and return to its base the same night, assuming the aircrafts can be refueled, either in the air or on the ground.
The capabilities of the Osprey were demonstrated in May 2006 for journalists covering an exercise of U.S. special forces, at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL, headquarters of USSOCOM. The aircraft was able to quickly transform itself from a helicopter, after taking off without any need for a runway, into a high-speed turboprop airplane that can fly low and thereby evade radar detection.
The Osprey’s unique features, which enable it to land on any terrain, provide it with the capacity for rescuing fighter pilots who were forced to abandon their aircraft and to evacuate wounded military personnel participating in operations deep inside enemy territory.
Given the logistical infrastructure needed for the establishment of a squadron and for the training of air and ground crews, the entire V-22 Osprey deal could reach close to $500 million from the U.S. military aid package to Israel.
The exclusive sale of V-22 Ospreys to Israel was finalized in April, in a meeting between Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Hagel.