Israel signs deal to buy $3.1 bln in US helicopters, tankers

The deal includes an option for Israel to buy six additional helicopters

Israel has signed a deal with the United States to buy 12 Lockheed Martin Corp CH-53K helicopters and two Boeing Co KC-46 refueling planes, the Israeli Defense Ministry said on Friday, estimating the total price at around $3.1 billion.

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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 material for the air force, told Israel's Army Radio on Thursday that the refueling planes on order would not be delivered before 2025.

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LMT LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP. 391.24 +4.07 +1.05%
BA THE BOEING CO. 194.27 -9.83 -4.82%

He said Israel was trying to bring forward the delivery of the KC-46s, and eventually wanted a total of four of them.

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Israeli media have speculated that the refueling planes could be crucial for carrying out a long-threatened air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Tsentsiper said the air force's current refueling capacities were sufficient for its missions.

 (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alex Richardson)