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Israel Reportedly Negotiating to Buy 48 U.S. Fighter Planes

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Israel is reportedly negotiating to purchase 48 of the latest U.S. fighter planes, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 valued at over a half-billion dollars. The terms and methods of payment are under discussion between the two countries and may have figured in Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s talks with U.S. officials here, including Treasury Secretary William Simon. This, however, remained a matter of speculation today but sources here indicated that the Defense Department has formally offered the planes to Israel and that Israel has tentatively accepted.

Israel was also reportedly offered 48 of the new Grumman-built F-14 Navy fighters but was said to prefer the smaller, less expensive F-15 which is regarded as one of the most maneuverable aircraft in the world. The first production model was delivered to the U.S. Air Force only a short time ago. The offer to Israel was said to have proposed a production rate of two F15s a month with the first due for delivery in about a year.

Assistant Secretary of the Army Harold Bronman told the Rouse Armed Services Committee yesterday that a total of 579 M-60 and 284 M-48 tanks had been shipped to foreign countries, mainly to Israel, since the Yom Kippur War. The Army is asking Congress for $85.9 million to make up the shortage of tanks in the U.S. armed forces resulting from shipments abroad.

U.S. military circles have complained recently that the emergency air lift to Israel in Oct. 1973 denuded U.S. forces of tanks and that U.S. tanks production lags behind that of the Soviet Union. According to Bronman, the Army presently has 8.226 tanks, well below the 10,000 authorized by Congress.

ARMS SHIPMENTS AND DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE

Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger said at a press conference several days ago that the withholding or limitation of weapon shipments to a potential warring party “has repeatedly been explored” as a means of exerting diplomatic pressure. But he said that the use of such tactics would depend on decisions of other “rather vigorous suppliers” of arms.

Schlesinger mentioned no country by name but he appeared to be referring to Israel which is dependent upon American arms supplies and to the Soviet Union which is arming Syria, Egypt and Iraq. The U.S. also furnished Jordan and Lebanon with military equipment and is working out a multi-million dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. France and Britain also supply arms to the Arab states.

The Defense Secretary said the U.S. cannot provide “a panacea” either in the strategic arms area or “even in the area of regional arms competition.” He said “the U.S. has far less leverage in this area than in the area of strategic arms in which there is only one other serious power.”

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