Israel to Purchase U.S. Combat Aircraft As Part of Program to Strengthen, Modernize Its Air Power

Air Force Commander Gen. Benjamin Peled disclosed today that Israel is in the process of deciding which of two advanced U.S. combat aircraft to purchase as part of a new program to modernize and strengthen its air power. He also disclosed that Israel’s air defenses have been bolstered by the introduction of a new American ground-to-air missile and a 20 mm. anti-aircraft gun of U.S. manufacture.

Peled made his announcements on the eve of Air Force Day which will be marked this Tuesday. He said the Air Force was concentrating on implementing the lessons of the Yom Kippur War and was seeking the most modern equipment and the best available manpower. He said in that connection that the Air Force’s medical standards have been raised.

He said the air defenses now have the “Chaparral” ground-to-air missile manufactured by the Philco Corp. He described it as a self-contained unit consisting of four missiles mounted on an amphibian carrier with additional missiles in a storage space. The missiles are heat-guided. Each unit costs $228,000. The air defenses also have the Vulcan anti-aircraft gun designed for defense against low flying planes. The six barrels fire 3,000 20 mm. shells per minute at a maximum altitude of 2,000 meters. Peled disclosed that both weapons were used during the recent war of attrition on the Syrian front.

USSR SUPPLIES MIG-23 TO SYRIA

Peled also said the Russians have supplied Syria with their newest and most sophisticated war plane, the MIG-23 and that Syrian pilots have already been trained to fly them. Israel has no aircraft to match the MIG-23, reputedly the world’s fastest and highest flying combat aircraft. But according to Peled, Israeli pilots in their planes are still superior to Syrian pilots in MIG23s. He admitted, nevertheless, that the gap in Israel’s air superiority has been dangerously narrowed.

The American answer to the MIG-23 is the F-14 and F-15, a multi-purpose fighter that Israel is interested in purchasing, Peled said. He said, however, that Israel is also considering the new American UF-16 and UF-17 which he described as interceptors of great maneuverability that are less expensive than the F-14 and F-15. He said Israel’s ultimate decision would be based on its military and economic needs.

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