Saturday April 20, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department is working out final details of a $10 billion sale of warplanes, transport aircraft and advanced missiles to Israel and Arab nations amid concerns about the growing threat from Iran and its disputed nuclear weapons program, Pentagon and congressional officials said Friday.

The U.S. has spent the past year negotiating with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the deal, which comes ahead of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the Middle East next week.

The officials said the United States will sell KC-135 refueling tanker planes and V-22 Osprey helicopters, the tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land like a plane, and precision-guided missiles.

In Israel, officials said the U.S. offer is in order to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region, in light of arms sales the U.S. is advancing in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The weaponry is not expected to arrive in Israel for at least two years.

The package for Israel also includes financial aid. The United Arab Emirates would purchase 26 F-16 warplanes under the deal.

The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the deal and spoke on condition of anonymity. Administrations officials described the deal to members of Congress on Thursday.

The New York Times first reported the impending sale.

Hagel will visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.