Hagel Expedites V-22 Sale to Israel Amid Syria Strikes
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Thursday that he gave orders to expedite the sale of six vertical liftoff V-22 Osprey aircraft to Israel, making Israel the first country besides the United States to have the plane in its military arsenal.
The move allows Israel to take priority ahead of the US Marine Corps in the aircraft's production schedule, according to Defense News. The first planes will likely be delivered within the next two years.
Built by Bell Helicopter and Boeing, the plane is intended to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge.
The news comes only 24 hours after the IAF reportedly struck a Syrian base in an operation to prevent SAM-8 advanced missiles from being transferred to Lebanon. Israel has previously come under heavy rocket fire from Lebanon and engaged in two defensive wars there.
Israel initially made the weapons deal for the aircraft, along with advanced missile systems, in April this year. The move was seen as expressing the viability of military action in Iran and Syria, and was criticized by Iran as potentially leading to "regional instability." Iran's nuclear program has been a major threat to stability, with many fearing a regional nuclear arms race.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon stated Friday that the Iranian nuclear threat must not be overlooked, leaving the option of a possible Israeli military strike in the region open for the time being.
In early October, Yaalon met Hagel, his US military counterpart, to discuss the Israeli acquisition of two squadrons (a total 48 aircraft) of F-35 stealth fighter jets, with their delivery anticipated to begin in late 2016.