Israel has stepped up the negotiation talks with Italy for the purchase of new helicopters from the Italian firm Leonardo on a condition of reciprocal defense procurement between the governments.
Leonardo is offering to sell its new training helicopters to Israel. Elbit Systems Ltd. is Leonardo's subcontractor in the project. US company Bell and European company Airbus are also competing in this helicopters contract, with their own advanced training helicopters. The deal is expected to amount to $350 million.
However, the report by Globes says Israel’s Ministry of Defense director general Major General Udi Adam had ordered teams involved in the process to seriously consider the Italian option, because of a "window of opportunity" recently opened for a possible government-to-government deal between the countries, in which the Italian government will agree to reciprocal defense procurement from Israel.
"The negotiations with the Italian Ministry of Defense and with Leonardo are reaching a peak, and the Ministry of Defense is making it clear that no deal will be signed until all its elements, including the reciprocal procurement from Israeli defense industries, are signed. The deal will be brought to the Ministry of Defense director general for approval only after the detailed negotiations for all the deals are completed," the ministry said.
According to the plan, Israel’s air force will receive eight training helicopters and simulator systems. The new helicopters are to replace the existing Bell 206 training helicopters, which the air force calls Sayfan, and which it has used since the 1970s.
The helicopters that Leonardo is trying to sell to Israel are the AW-119 KX model. Bell is offering its GXP-407 model, and Airbus is offering its H-125 model.
However, the Israeli ministry has made it clear that the deal with Italy will be a great benefit for everyone. The Ministry of Defense added, "After the air force approved all the helicopters tested as suitable for its operational requirements, the Ministry of Defense has decided to consider the possibility of buying the helicopters in the context of deal between the countries (Israel and Italy), in which in exchange for buying the helicopters and training package for the air force, the Italian government will conduct substantial reciprocal procurement from the Israeli defense industries that will benefit Israeli defense exports and the IDF. This is similar to the tradeoff deal for buying training planes from Italy in 2012, which brought the Israeli economy $1 billion and greatly strengthened bilateral defense relations between the two countries".
However, the extent of the additional reciprocal procurement in Israel to which the Italian Ministry of Defense is willing to commit itself in this deal is still unclear.
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