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Israel sells old F-16s to US, Canada to use as training planes

Four of 29 retired aircraft sent to America this week in major deal worth tens of millions of dollars, Defense Ministry says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A retired Israeli F-16 fighter jet is loaded into a cargo plane as it is sold to a North American company on January 27, 2021. (Defense Ministry)
A retired Israeli F-16 fighter jet is loaded into a cargo plane as it is sold to a North American company on January 27, 2021. (Defense Ministry)

Twenty-nine retired Israeli F-16 fighter jets were sold to a North American company on Wednesday in a major arms deal worth tens of millions of dollars, the Defense Ministry said.

The planes were purchased by the company Top Aces, which simulates enemy aircraft in exercises with the United States and Canadian air forces.

Four of the fighter jets were flown to the United States on Wednesday, inside a massive Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo plane.

The F-16 jets — known in Hebrew as the Netz, or hawk — were some of the first models delivered to Israel from the United States in the late 1970s.

Retired Israeli F-16 fighter jets are loaded into a cargo plane as it is sold to a North American company on January 27, 2021. (Defense Ministry)

According to the Defense Ministry, one of the four planes delivered to Top Aces on Wednesday had taken part in the 1981 strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

Israel has in the past struggled to sell its retired fighter jets. In 2019, Israel was forced to scrap a deal to sell retired F-16s to Croatia due to American opposition.

Washington apparently objected to that sale on the grounds that Israel’s upgrades made the planes more attractive to buyers than American models. The US said Israel needed to strip off the upgrades made to the US-made jets after Israel acquired the planes some 30 years ago, including sophisticated electronic and radar systems. Those upgrades, however, had been a crucial factor in Croatia’s decision to buy the planes from Israel, rather than from the US, leading to the entire deal being scrapped.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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