(Corrects value of deal in headline and first paragraph to $3.1 billion from $2 billion)
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has signed a deal with the United States to buy 12 Lockheed Martin Corp CH-53K helicopters and two Boeing Co KC-46 refuelling planes, the Israeli Defence Ministry said on Friday, estimating the total price at around $3.1 billion.
The deal, signed on Thursday, is part of an upgrade of Israel’s air force capabilities and includes an option to buy six additional helicopters, a ministry statement said.
It said the first helicopters were due to arrive in Israel in 2026. Brigadier-General Shimon Tsentsiper, chief of materiel for the air force, told Israel’s Army Radio on Thursday that the refuelling planes on order would not be delivered before 2025.
He said Israel was trying to bring forward the delivery of the KC-46s, and eventually wanted a total of four of them.
Israeli media have speculated that the refuelling planes could be crucial for carrying out a long-threatened air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Tsentsiper said the air force’s current refuelling capacities were sufficient for its missions.
(This story corrects the value of deal in headline and first paragraph to $3.1 billion from $2 billion)
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alex Richardson)