TEL AVIV (Mar. 2)
Sources here believe that the U.S. State and Defense Departments are deliberately trying to prevent Israel from achieving independence in the production of sophisticated weapons systems, particularly combat aircraft. They cited an article in Aviation Week earlier this week which quoted Pentagon circles as saying the reason Israel wants a license to produce F-16 fighter planes or their components is to accumulate American know-how.
According to the sources, this is a ridiculous charge. They said that Israel has bid to purchase 250 F-16s, an aircraft not yet in production, on condition that Israel Aircraft Industries is licensed to produce parts of the plane on an increasing scale so that the last 50 units would be almost entirely built in Israel. The reason is that Israel would save as much as 20-30 percent of the $3 billion purchase price if the F-16 infrastructure and spare parts could be produced at home.
The sources said the question of know-how is a false issue because the U.S. has offered Israel co-production rights on much more sophisticated systems if Israel agreed to purchase additional quantities of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 fighter bomber. Israel has ordered 25 of the planes, three of which were delivered last year. But the Israel Air Force prefers to wait for the F-16s which are an advanced model.