U.S. finalizing arms sales to Israel, Arab nations

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is working out final details of $10 billion in sales of warplanes, transport aircraft and advanced missiles to Israel and two Arab nations amid concerns about the growing threat from Iran and its disputed nuclear weapons program, Pentagon and congressional officials said Friday.

The U.S. has spent the past year negotiating with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the deals, which come ahead of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the Middle East starting Sunday.

The officials said the United States will sell to Israel an undisclosed number of Boeing KC-135 aerial refueling planes and Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft, the tilt-rotor hybrid that can take off and land like a helicopter and then fly like an airplane, as well as precision-guided missiles and advanced radar for Israeli fighter aircraft. It would be the first sale of the V-22 to a foreign nation.

In Israel, officials said the U.S. offer is meant to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region, in light of arms sales the U.S. is advancing in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The weaponry is not expected to arrive in Israel for at least two years.

The package for Israel also includes financial aid.

The United Arab Emirates would purchase 26 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes under the deal, as well as advanced air-launched missiles. Three Pentagon officials who briefed reporters on the arrangement Friday said the UAE segment of the deal is valued at $4 billion to $5 billion. They did not specify the value of the sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are expected to buy advanced air-launched missiles.

The Pentagon and congressional officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deals publicly. One official said the deals were briefed to Congress on Thursday by Wendy Sherman, the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs, and James Miller, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy.

The New York Times first reported the impending sales Thursday.

Hagel will visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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