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Israeli "firesale" sees F16s and Merkava I tanks at discounted prices


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If you're looking for a cut-rate F-16 or a Merkava tank

Published: July 15, 2013 at 1:17 PM

TEL AVIV, Israel, July 15 (UPI) -- Israel's military is planning to hold a bargain basement sale of aircraft, tanks and navy missile ships that are being made redundant under a revolutionary, multiyear program to restructure the Jewish state's armed forces to meet new challenges.

And if there are no takers for the weapons systems, including old-model Israeli-built Merkava main battle tanks and U.S. Lockheed Martin F-16 combat jets, they may be sold as scrap metal.

The program -- tagged "Teuza," Hebrew for boldness -- that was developed by the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, "will turn bases into sales lots for tanks, armored personnel carriers, warships, combat flight equipment, vehicle logistics accessories, cannons and air force ballistic systems," military writer Yoav Zitun reported on Ynet, the online outlet for the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

"These items and others will are expected to be on the sales block over the coming two years as part of the cutback program."

The program involves retiring a wide range of aging equipment that has no place in the smaller, more agile high-tech military Israel's generals believe is needed now that the Jewish state's traditional Arab foes are no longer deemed to pose a conventional threat as they did in 1967 and 1973.

These included an unspecified number of early-model F-16A/B Fighting Falcons, which the Israeli air force first acquired in 1979. It had ordered the jets in 1978, but got an early delivery of aircraft that has been earmarked for Iran before Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Israel currently has 77 F-16As in its inventory, along with 16 F-16Bs. These could be the jets that are slated for auction.

Israel is the second largest user of F-16s after the U.S. Air Force. The jet won its first air-to-air kills with the Israeli air force -- a Syrian Mu-8 helicopter in April 1981 and a Syrian MuG-21 three months later.

Ynet said the 44 of the Israeli air force's venerable and much-loved Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, highly agile Vietnam-era delta-winged light attack bombers that, would be on the block.

The A-4s were withdrawn from front line services some years ago but have been used for advanced jet pilot training.

Early model Merkava Mark 1 battle tanks, assembled by state-owned Israel Military Industries and which entered service in 1979, are expected to be up for sale as well.

The Military Balance 2012, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, says Israel, which these days relies on the more advanced Mk IV, currently has an estimated 440 Mk 1s and 290 MkIIs in storage.

It's expected the army will finally relinquish its remaining M60 Patton tanks built by Chrysler and the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant from 1966 to 1987.

Israel first acquired the M60A1 models in 1971. These saw action on the Golan and Sinai fronts against Syrian and Egyptian armor in the 1973 Middle East war.

They played a vital role in preventing the Syrians from recapturing the strategic Golan Heights captured by Israel in 1967.

Israel up-armored the M60 and dubbed that the Magach. The IISS says the Israeli army has 111 Magach-7s and 711 M60A1/A3 models in mothballs.

Ynet said the main buyers are likely to be Latin American, Asian or African militaries, which still keep in service aging systems like these.

Some, such as Sri Lanka, Chile and Ecuador have already purchased second-hand Israeli aircraft and helicopters, including some of the 200 Skyhawks the Israelis once had in their inventory, as well as Kfirs, the Israeli-built version of the Mirage 5 built by Dassault Aviation of France.

The Kfir, or Lion Cub, was an all-weather, multirole jet built in the 1970s by what is state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and equipped with Israeli avionics and an Israeli version of General Electric's J79 turbojet engine.

The financial cuts envisaged in the Tueza plan are expected to save $1.9 billion in defense spending in the next five years as the military concentrates on fighting missile wars and cyberattacks.

"Heavy equipment is expected to remain at bases until it's sold, which can take years," Zitun reported.

"If the military decides it's not worth waiting for a sale, the equipment can be welded down by an external contractor ... and sold as blocks of steel."