Austria May Buy Israeli Kfirs if Mideast Peace is Concluded

The conclusion of a peace between Israel and Egypt might remove Austria’s reservations about buying Israel’s Kfirs jet fighters, government source said today. Austria has been interested in purchasing 18-24 Kfirs since 1977 to bolster its air defenses but some critics feared that such a deal would hurt Austria’s trade relations with the Arab world.

Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Foreign Minister Willipald Pahr told a Cabinet meeting last week that a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt might wipe the objections off the slate.

The Kfir, after extensive tests, was considered the best choice among offers which also included the French Mirage F-1, Sweden’s Sviggen and the U.S. Northrop’s F-5E. But Austria must modernize its ground control system before it can utilize new fighter planes.

Last month, the government revealed plans to produce Kfirs at an assembly plant in Wiener Neustadt, a few miles south of Vienna, to reduce costs of production and maintenance. Israeli officials were annoyed that Austria disclosed the plans at an early stage because this might jeopardize the deal.

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