Israel has scrapped a plan to purchase the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey for the country’s air force amid budgetary troubles and a renewed focus on buying fighter jets and aerial refuelers, according to senior Israeli defense officials.
Given recent budget turbulence and the impending installation of a new government, the Israeli ministry of defense decided that the V-22 purchase will be frozen “until more resources are available,” according to senior officials.
The Israel Defense Forces have prioritized buying additional F-35I, the country’s version of the Lockheed Martin-built fifth-generation fighter, the F-15IA and the Boeing KC-46A tanker to replace the old IAF 707’s that serve as converted aerial refueling aircraft.
Israel is also in the process of choosing a new heavy-lift helicopter to replace its aging CH-53Es. That contest is a head-to-head matchup between the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion and Boeing CH-47F Chinook. The country’s defense procurement budget also must contend with an increased need for missile defense capabilities and ongoing deals for buying ships and submarines from Germany.
Israel has sought a fleet of V-22s since at least 2012 and had planned Israel-specific modifications to the aircraft it would purchase. The U.S. State Department in 2014 greenlit the sale of six V-22B Block C aircraft to Israel for $1.13 billion.
“The proposed sale of V-22B aircraft will enhance and increase the Israel Defense Forces’ search-and-rescue and special operations capabilities,” the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a January 2014 announcement of the proposed foreign military sale. “The V-22B provides the capability to move personnel and equipment to areas not accessible by fixed wing lift assets. The GOI will have no difficulty absorbing this technology into its current aircraft inventory.”
IAF officials had identified an operational requirement for between 12 and 14 of the aircraft to deliver IDF forces quickly, throughout its territory, when an emergency arises. It also is one of only a few aircraft able to carry the F135 engine for the F-35 fighter Israel is buying from the United States.
In August 2019, the Israeli ministry of defense issued a price and availability request to the U.S. Navy’s international programs office for the acquisition of the V-22.
That official step toward purchasing the aircraft followed a declaration by Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Israeli defense forces’ (IDF) chief of staff , that there is an operational need for more than two dozen Ospreys.
The decision about the acquisition of the V-22 has been delayed for some years, mainly because of conflicting reports made by the Israeli airforce (IAF) and the IDF’s ground forces command.
It is expected that once a new Israeli government is formed, buying the V-22 will be back on the table.