TEL AVIV — A prototype of Israel's new Lavi jet fighter was rolled out of its hangar and put on display today, a declaration that Israel intends to go ahead with the project despite U.S. criticism that the plane is too costly.
Pentagon officials have said each plane will cost $22 million to build, disputing Israel's estimated price tag of $15 million per plane. The United States has provided nearly all of the $1 billion in development costs.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres, addressing more than 1,000 aircraft workers at a ceremony near Ben-Gurion International Airport, predicted that the Lavi will become a major export earner, like other projects of Israel Aircraft Industries--the Kfir fighter, the Westwind project and the Gabriel sea-to-sea missile. Each has produced more than $1 billion in export earnings, he said.
More Bombs Than F-16
Its Israeli designers say the Lavi will be able to fly farther and faster and deliver more bombs than the F-16, the state-of-the-art U.S. fighter that is the backbone of the Israeli air force.