American Jets to Fly to Jordan; So Will Israeli Prime Minister

As a reward for making peace with Israel, the Jordanian air force will soon receive 16 American fighter jets.

Delivered under a no-cost, five-year lease, the jets will satisfy the commitments the United States made to Jordan after the Hashemite kingdom signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

The lease of the fighter jets will cost the United States $220 million. Last year, the United States forgave $275 million in Jordanian debts.

News of the lease comes on the eve of an expected visit to Jordan by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jordanian officials said Netanyahu would meet King Hussein and Crown Prince Hassan, among others, during his visit, which is scheduled for Monday.

The Israeli prime minister was in Cairo earlier this month for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Jordanian officials said Hussein was expected to travel to Damascus for talks with Syrian leader Hafez Assad before Netanyahu’s visit.

The visit was postponed because Hussein needed minor surgery on his ear. He returned from London this week after the surgery was performed.

The acquisition of the U.S. aircraft is part of an attempt by Jordan to modernize its air force, which is made up of planes as old as 20 years.

The F-16s “will be used solely for the air defense role,” Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ababneh, Jordan’s air force chief of staff, told reporters.

Jordan can receive the aircraft via a no-cost lease under the Arms Export Control Act, which allows such exchange of jets that have flown more than 75 percent of their projected life spans.

By leasing the planes instead of selling them outright, the United States saves millions of dollars, Defense Department officials said.

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