The U.S. will supply Israel with six Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircrafts, moving up their delivery timetable so that the first planes arrive in two years, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Thursday.
Israel will become the first foreign country to receive the advanced planes, even before the new models are supplied to the Marine Corps. Israel had expressed its interest in acquiring six planes last week, following the cabinet's decision on the defense budget.
Hagel, who announced the move in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League in New York, said the V-22 "will greatly enhance the range and effectiveness of Israeli special forces." He said the Israeli shipment would be part "of the next order to go on the assembly line. ... I have directed the Marine Corps to make sure this order is expedited."
The V-22 incorporates flexible technology that allows it to take off vertically, like a helicopter, but fly like a conventional airplane by tilting its rotors 45 degrees downward. The Osprey can reach a speed of up to 300 knots (345 miles per hour) -- double that of a helicopter -- and carry up to 24 people or more than 9,000 kilograms (20,000 pounds) of cargo. It has a range of 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) with a single aerial refueling.
The models supplied to the Israeli Air Force will also feature several custom-made components.
The planes are expected to expand the Israeli military's ability to conduct long-range, high-speed maneuvers in areas devoid of runways, as well as affording it an advantage when planes need to be sent deep into enemy territory or participate in maritime search-and-rescue missions.
Since entering service in 2007, the V-22 has been used by the Marines and the U.S. Air Force in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. It is considered one of the safest planes in the U.S. military's inventory.