Austrian Delegation in Israel to Investigate Buying Kfir Jets

An Austrian delegation headed by Defense Minister Karl Ferdinand Von Luetgendorf arrived here last night to investigate the possibility of buying 25 Israel-made “Kfir” jet interceptors for the Austrian air force. The delegation, greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by Defense Minister Shimon Peres, includes six members of the Austrian Parliament and three senior officers of the Austrian air force.

Austrian test pilots have flown the Kfir and are apparently satisfied with its performance But sources here said it was unlikely that a transaction would be completed during the delegation’s visit. The general feeling, however, is that Austria will eventually conclude a deal despite strong political pressure against it.

The Viennese newspaper, Die Presse, noted yesterday that “a big disadvantage lies in the political field” because “the country where the Kfir is produced is situated in the Middle East conflict area.” The paper added that “We have to take care of the Arab markets too, and who can guarantee the shipment of spare parts in case of a new outbreak of war in the Middle East?”

A major factor in favor of the purchase is the low price of the Kfir in comparison to similar aircraft produced in other countries. The Kfir, the first combat plane designed and produced in Israel, is priced at $4.5 million per plane compared to $6 million for the French-made Mirage F-l C. Only the less sophisticated American Northrop F-5 “Tiger” is cheaper, Austrian sources have pointed out. According to Die Presse, Israel is willing to negotiate a multi-million dollar bargain with the Austrian state-owned Stell Industry in exchange for the plane deal.

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