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US gives Israeli minister a ride in V-22 Osprey aircraft
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 14, 2013

Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon got to fly in a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft during a US visit Friday, as his country weighs whether to buy the American military plane.

Yaalon arrived for talks at the Pentagon in unusual fashion, with the hybrid aircraft -- which hovers like a helicopter -- floating down for a landing outside the steps of the Defense Department.

Washington has offered the Osprey to Israel along with advanced missiles, sophisticated radar and aerial refueling tankers. If the deal goes through, Israel would be the first foreign country allowed to buy the Osprey.

Yaalon earlier flew in the Osprey 37 miles (60 kilometers) to a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, where pilots demonstrated the plane's capabilities.

The Israelis came away impressed by the speed of the aircraft, and one said it could "extend the night" for Israeli special forces, a US defense official said on condition of anonymity.

The V-22, which has two rotors that tilt up for landing and take-off, was plagued by technical problems and a spate of crashes in the 1990s.

But the plane, manufactured by Boeing, has become a favored workhorse in Afghanistan and elsewhere for the US Marine Corps, which has a fleet of more than 200.

The US Navy recently announced plans to buy 99 V-22s for $6.5 billion in a five-year contract.

After landing, Yaalon entered the Pentagon for talks with his American counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, that covered Syria's civil war and tensions with Iran.

The two men "discussed the ongoing violence in Syria and condemned the use of chemical weapons" by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

"Both noted the complexities of the situation and resolved to remain in close contact and continue to share information to support the defense of Israel."

The talks came a day after President Barack Obama's administration said Assad's forces had used sarin gas in the war and hinted that Washington would begin supplying arms to Syrian rebels.

On Iran, which both countries accuse of pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, Hagel and Yaalon "reaffirmed that the United States and Israel will continue to work together to counter threats posed by Iran and remain prepared for a range of contingencies," the statement said.


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