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Cloudy Future for the Lavie

The Lavie, Israel’s second generation fighterplane, will make its first test flight in nine months, but its future is clouded. The problems are budgetary rather than technical, Maj. Gen. (Res.) David Ivry, head of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), manufacturer of the supersonic jet told Israel Radio.

He said the first prototype Lavie will be flown next September and the second in December. But a decision has yet to be made as to its economic feasibility. According to some sources, the Lavie, which is to replace Israel’s first generation home-built fighter, the Kfir, will be worth producing only if the Air Force guarantees to purchase at least 300 of the aircraft.

Anything less than that number would make the cost per-plane prohibitive and Israel would save money buying its next generation fighter from the U.S., these sources say. But the defense establishment, which originally contemplated ordering 300 Lavies, now fears that budget cuts will make so large an order impossible.