Israel's Defense Ministry Looking to Sell Surplus Planes, Tanks and Boats to 'Friendly Nations'

The Hercules aircraft used in the Entebbe rescue mission is just one of the items available to buy.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

A list of hardware being sold off by the Defense Ministry reveals the inventory of planes, tanks and other items that have been taken out of service by the Israel Defense Forces and delivered to the ministry for overseas sales. Included in the list of army surplus are 25 Kfir warplanes (adapted from French Mirage fighters), eight Cobra helicopters, and 18 fighter-interceptor F-16 Hawks.

“When newer systems replace older ones, the latter can still serve some purposes, and are therefore offered as military hardware for sale,” says the Israel Defense Directory, a guide to Israel’s military exports. “Over the last few years,” it continues, “the Israeli army has gradually discontinued the use of older-generation weapon systems, releasing for sale relatively advanced aircraft, helicopters, battlefield tanks and naval vessels. These are offered to friendly nations wishing to acquire modern, reliable and well-maintained military systems.”

According to the ministry’s Defense Aid branch, the directory is distributed “to foreign governments, military and acquisition agents by Israel’s military attaches and representatives at commercial exhibitions.”

The directory’s two volumes, one dealing with external defense and the other with internal “Homeland Defense,” can be purchased for $100 per volume. A shortened version can be viewed on the website of the Defense Aid branch at the Defense Ministry.

And what system is Israel intent on selling to the highest bidder, under the label of “surplus from a good home”? The list is divided according to topics, dealing with land, air and sea.

Israel is selling 18 F-16 A-B Hawks that are still in use by the air force, with “a wide range of missions.” Over 40 Skyhawk Eagles are also for sale. The pages dealing with aircraft in the directory state that “the Skyhawk played a major role in the air force’s achievements during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It is still in use for battle training and for operational missions.”

Also available are 25 Kfir planes, local variants of the French Mirage 5 warplane. Defense Ministry officials point out that “this plane has been actively incorporated in several overseas air forces.” Also included are 25 Zukit planes, an improved version of the French Fouga Magister. These are training planes, used by the Israel Air Force’s flight school until only three years ago.

Three Hercules C-130 aircraft are for sale, including the legendary one that took part in the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation. Defense Aid branch sources say that two of these planes were decommissioned in 2005, while the third was retired in 2009.

The list also includes eight Cobra and 16 Defender helicopters, the latter being popular with customers seeking a smaller craft for unarmed missions (such as police and rescue services). Some 350,000 spare parts are also available.
Israel is also offering flight simulators for fighter jets, including the Hawk, the Barak (F-16C), the Sufa (F-16I), the Baz and Ra’am F-15 planes, as well as for the Skyhawks. One of the simulators listed as new is for the Blackhawk CH-53 Yasur helicopter, as well as a simulator for the unmanned Searcher II aircraft.

Veteran tanks are also on the display shelf. These include British Centurions and American Pattons, as well as the M60A3 - the latest and most updated version of the Patton tank, which entered service in 1978.

The navy has discontinued its Sa’ar 4-class missile boats, putting them on sale under the slogan “Born out of necessity, developed based on experience.” Potential buyers have not been impressed, though, and no takers have been found for them as yet.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz’s announcement earlier this month indicating that manpower will be slashed - including a shutdown of mobile units such as fighter squadrons and a decommissioning of two missile boats - should increase the inventory of surpluses.

A Defense Ministry source predicts that Israel will struggle to sell much of the equipment being disposed of by the military. There is already a glut of outdated tanks on the world market, so most of the armored vehicles will probably end up as scrap metal.

However, some of the aircraft being discarded by the air force (due to budgetary constraints) are already being considered for purchase by overseas customers. It is likely that the newer additions to the “liquidation sale” will be sold more easily, since they were maintained for many years by the air force and are still considered as highly capable aircraft.

An IDF Hercules C-130 aircraft flying over Tirat Carmel.Credit: Reuters

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