Israeli Defense Minister to Take First Ride in V-22 Plane

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on his visit to the U.S. today will fly for the first time in a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor airplane, which the Jewish state is considering buying.

Ya’alon will fly about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the Pentagon to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, where he and his team will be briefed and get a demonstration of the plane before flying back to the Pentagon, Defense Department spokesman Carl Woog said in a phone interview.

The U.S. has offered a fleet of V-22s, and Israel is considering them as well as other weapons, including aerial refueling planes, precision anti-radar missiles and air-defense radar. The Osprey, an airplane that takes off and lands like a helicopter, could improve Israel’s ability to conduct commando and rescue operations.

If Israel buys the planes, it will be the first export of the V-22 Osprey made by Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Providence, Rhode Island-based Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Ya’alon will discuss the arms package, Woog said. The two officials considered the weaponry when Hagel visited Israel in April and said the equipment was part of “an iron-clad pledge” by President Barack Obama’s administration to ensure Israel’s military edge against its enemies such Syria and Iran.

The value of the arms package will depend in part on how many V-22s Israel wants and what configuration and weapons its military forces decide on, a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss bilateral negotiations said last month.

The plane has overcome design, safety and reliability setbacks, including two crashes in 2000 that killed 23 Marines.

Japanese residents of the island of Okinawa protested the U.S. deployment of the V-22 there last year after two accidents involving the aircraft in Florida and Morocco. In September, Japanese officials declared the V-22 safe for deployment.

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