PARIS (Mar. 20)
The French Government has promised Israel a definite decision early in April on the release of 50 Mirage IV jet fighter-bombers which Israel ordered early last year, delivery of which has been blocked by the embargo on shipments of arms to the Middle East imposed by Gen. de Gaulle last June.
The question of release of the planes was discussed last night by Israel Ambassador Walter Eytan and Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, it was learned. The Israeli envoy, it was understood, pointed out to the Prime Minister that under the terms of Israel’s contract with Dessault, the builders of the Mirage planes, Israel is scheduled to make a substantial further payment on account and wants some assurance, before making this payment, that the French Government will permit delivery of the aircraft.
The planes, modified to Israeli specifications, are being completed at the rate of four or five a month and a number of them are being held at a French airfield awaiting government release.
The French-built plane, one of the finest fighting craft in production today, is the mainstay of the Israeli Air Force. Israel ordered 50 more of the planes early last year to complete the re-equipment of its air force. Losses in the Six-Day War and normal attrition intensified Israel’s need for more aircraft as a deterrent to aggression. The de Gaulle embargo not only blocked the planes Israel had bought and largely paid for but also, the spare parts and replacements needed to keep the Israeli squadrons airworthy.
While the French embargo has been in effect, Israel has been making strong efforts to purchase American-built Phantom fighter-bombers but has not received authorization. The Sky hawk fighter planes now being shipped to Israel from the United States are not considered to be as effective weapons as the Mirage fighters and the latest model Soviet-built MIGs.