U.S. denies Israel's request for sped up delivery of two refueling jets

Israel has requested the refueling tankers as it says it is preparing for the threat of a nuclear Iran

Updated: December 14, 2021 - 11:18am

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The U.S. has rejected a request from Israel to speed up the delivery of pre-ordered KC-46 refueling jets, amid escalating tensions between the country and neighboring Iran. 

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week to discuss the ongoing threat of a nuclear Iran. 

Gantz reportedly told his U.S. counterparts that his country is preparing for a potential military response to Iran. As part of that preparation, the ministerial committee for military procurement opted to purchase eight KC-46 refueling jets – though the initial idea to purchase the jets was generated several years ago by then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

This is the first time the State Department has allowed Israel to purchase new tankers, the first of which are meant to be delivered by late 2023. Israel, however, has been checking the temperature on receiving that first delivery in the next year instead.

The Boeing planes would give dozens of Israeli bomber aircraft the ability to remain in the air for up to 12 hours at time at a range of about 6,800 miles. Aircraft with such capabilities are essential to any operation against Iran, which is just about 620 miles away from Israel's border. 

The tankers will replace Israel's current Ram (Boeing 707) tanker aircraft, which are nearing the tender age of 60. 

"There is no country in the world that flies platforms that are this old. To fly a re-fueler or a helicopter with more than 50 soldiers inside is not trivial. These are non-trivial risk levels," Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel said last month. 

According to reporting from Ynet, the Israeli military remains hopeful that the U.S. will be swayed to advance the delivery of two of the jets. The U.S. and Israel are reportedly planning joint exercises to prepare for a possible targeted attack on Iran's nuclear program.