TEL AVIV (Mar. 3)
Transport Minister Gad Yaacobi urged Premier Yitzhak Rabin last night to try to get the United States to reverse its opposition to the sale of 24 Israel-made Kfir jet fighters to Ecuador when he visits Washington next week. Addressing the 19th annual Aviation and Aeronautics Convention here, Yaacobi said the sale, the value of which has been put at between $150-$200 million, could be a turning point for Israel’s aircraft industry.
He said he hoped the Premier would spare no effort to impress the Americans with this fact. The U.S. has refused to issue a re-export license for the General Electric engines that power the Kfir, thereby vetoing the sale the U.S. State Department says the decision was based on American policy not to introduce sophisticated weaponry to Latin America.
Yaacobi stressed the importance of military exports to Israel’s economy. He said that Israel Aircraft Industries. which makes the Kfir and also manufactures the Gabriel and Shafrir missiles, the Araba transport planes, radar and other advanced electronics systems, has increased its export sales 12-fold in the last five years. He said sales rose from $6 million in 1971 to $73 million last year.
Dr. Zeev Bonen, of the Military Means Development Authority, told the 800 engineers and scientists from Israel and abroad who are attending the convention that Israel needed to develop aeronautical systems based on an economic infra-structure that will allow Israel to export its products in that line.
HOW KFIR DIFFERS
IAI engineers pointed out how the Kfir differs from the French Mirage-3 and Mirage-5, the prototypes from which it was developed. The differences, they said, are mainly in the Kfir’s aerodynamic structure embodied in its nose and wing edges.
There are even greater differences internally, they said, because the powerful American engines and new electric and avionic systems required larger spaces, The interior of the Kfir was adapted to accommodate these systems. It posed the most complicated engineering problems but these were solved by IAI engineers to make the Kfir completely an Israeli product despite its foreign antecedants, they said.