Israel, UAE, India lead world fighter jet buys

Feb 16, 2009
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US is the largest exporter of jets; Israel purchased 82 during research period, mostly F-16s like the one that crashed last week.
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Israel, the United Arab Emirates and India led the world over the past five years in the procurement of new fighter jets, according to a study conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

According to the report released last week, combat aircraft made up one-third of all global arms transfers between 2005 and 2006. The United States was the largest exporter of jets with 341 sold in that period compared to a total of 286 it sold in the previous five years. Russian sales were down from 331 between 2000 and 2004 to 219 between 2005 and 2006.

According to the report, Israel purchased 82 new aircraft during the period, preceded by the UAE with 108 and India with 115. Israel received mostly new F-16s of the "I" model like the one that crashed last week in the Ramon Crater.

The report warned of the destabilizing effect the sale of combat aircraft could have throughout the world.

"While combat aircraft are often presented as one of the most important weapons needed for defense, these same aircraft give countries possessing them the potential to easily and with little warning strike deep into neighboring countries," said Siemon Wezeman, a senior fellow with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program and author of the study.

As an example of the destabilizing effect combat aircraft could have, the study gave Israel's alleged strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007 as well as Russian attacks on Georgia in 2008 as examples.

"Acquisitions of combat aircraft thus clearly can have a major destabilizing effect on regions, as reactions to acquisitions in several regions show," Wezeman said.

In related news, Israeli defense officials said last week that they were confident that reports about possible delays to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program would not affect the recently signed deal for the Israel Air Force to begin receiving the aircraft in 2016.

Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani spoke last week with senior officials in the Pentagon and was told that even if there are delays in the F- 35 program, it would not affect Israeli procurement plans.

Recent reports claim that the program may be as far as three years behind schedule.

Israel finalized $2.75 billion deal for 20 F-35s in early October.

A review of the F-35 program is scheduled to be presented to the Defense Acquisition Board on November 22.

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