The new arms deal with the U.S., whose finality we will know about by the end of the week, includes one particularly exotic vehicle: the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. A one of a kind airplane-helicopter hybrid that can do things that just about every other aircraft can't: take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like an airplane. This ability is provided by the V-22's advanced wing design -- an incredible engineering and technological feat -- which holds the engines on the tips and is still able to shift its position from vertical to horizontal and back.
The unique wing is the secret behind the V-22, and the U.S. refused to reveal it to any other country since the plane's maiden flight in 1989. Israel will be the first country in the world to get the Osprey outside of the U.S. Israel needs the Osprey to replace its aging Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion fleet, whose lifespan has been continuously stretched. As of today the air force has no real replacement for the aged helicopter, production of which stopped in 1978. The air force uses this heavy cargo helicopter intensively, and it has taken part in all Israel's wars since the war of attrition with the Egypt (1967-1970) and in hundreds if not thousands of operations deep in enemy territory, some of them covert. The age and huge operational stress it weathers is beginning to show on the helicopter, and maintaining its capabilities and safety is becoming an increasingly difficult task.
The V-22 will give the Israel Air Force an advanced, modern aircraft, which will provide additional functionality and capabilities, enhanced safety for its passengers, and, no less important, a 25% reduction in fuel consumption in comparison to the Sea Stallion.
The acquisition of the sexy Osprey overshadows a less exciting aircraft also part of the arms deal, but one that is of the utmost tactical importance: the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. The tanker is more or less a flying gas station, but it allows the IAF to extend its already long range and allows its fighter jets to partake in operations far from the country's borders. The KC-135 serves as the backbone of the U.S. Air Force's mid-air refueling fleet. The plane is based on the old Boeing 707, which took to the skies in 1957, before many of those reading this were born. The IAF also employs the 707 as a refueling jet, but the KC-135 is much different from the passenger aircraft upon which it was based. Parts of its wing were redesigned and rebuilt, its engines were replaced with newer and more efficient ones, and it was fitted with new electronic and avionic systems, making the KC-135 a totally different bird altogether. There is no doubt this is a force multiplier for the IAF.
Aharon Lapidot is the deputy editor of Israel Hayom.