LONDON (Feb. 20)
Israel has quietly increased its orders with France for the 1,400 mile-an-hour Mirage jet plane in a bid to make its air arm the most potent fighter force in the Middle East, the London Daily Express reported today.
The newspaper said that orders had been increased from 30 jets to 96 and that more than 50 were believed to have already been delivered. The newspaper said the high-speed fighter planes were being flight tested and ferried to Israel from an airfield near Marseilles and carry “French markings.”
The report said that French sources had never officially confirmed a Mirage pact with Israel but that the first order was known to have been signed by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion in June 1960. The value of the total order is estimated at about 40,000,000 pounds sterling ($112, 000, 000) the Express asserted, adding that “by the middle of next year, Israel will have twice the supersonic fighter power of the British Royal Air Force. ” The Israeli Air Force is currently equipped with the Vautour, which is subsonic and no match for the Russian MIG-21 planes currently based in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.