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Israel Unveils Fighter Despite U.S. Criticism

July 21, 1986|Associated Press

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.

No high-ranking representatives of the Reagan Administration will attend the official televised unveiling ceremony tonight, although six U.S. congressmen will be on hand.

As a result of the dispute over costs, $70 million in U.S. funding on five Lavi contracts has been held up and a two-member General Accounting Office team is in Israel to study cost discrepancies.

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