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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Canceled by Obama, advanced F-22 jet fighter
to be marketed in Gulf

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Central Command has approved a proposal to introduce the F-22 Raptor, the only U.S. fighter that could penetrate Russian air defenses, in several exercises with Persian Gulf states.


The F-22 Raptor   
Several countries have sought to purchase the F-22 after the U.S. suspended procurement by the U.S. Air Force.

Industry sources said the F-22 was the only fighter in the U.S. Air Force that could penetrate any Russian air defense system, including the S-300PMU that is expected to be deployed by Iran against any Western challenge to its development of nuclear weapons.

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Israel has relayed several requests for the aircraft, priced at $140 million per unit, Middle East Newsline reported.

So far, the F-22, termed the most advanced Western fighter, has not been flown in the Middle East. Officials said the air force wanted to deploy the F-22 to determine its capabilities in the searing heat of the Gulf.

"This is something I have put on my exercise program," Centcom air operations chief Lt. Gen. Gary North said.

North said the F-22 would participate in exercises sponsored by the UAE-based Gulf Air Warfare Center. The center has sought to facilitate interoperability between the air forces of the United States and the Gulf states as part of regional defense efforts.

"I would like to bring the F-22 into theater as rapidly as possible for exercising," North told a Feb. 26 briefing.

Other Middle East states have expressed interest in the latest variant of the F-15 fighter-jet.

Executives said several Middle East states have relayed interest in the new F-15 Silent Eagle, or F-15SE. They said the aircraft, manufactured by Boeing, would be capable of long-strike missions against such regional adversaries as Iran.

"The F-15 Silent Eagle is designed to meet our international customers' anticipated need for cost-effective stealth technologies, as well as for large and diverse weapons payloads," Boeing vice president Mark Bass said.

Executives said the F-15SE would mark an interim solution until the maturation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project. They said the latest F-15 included new conformal tanks as well as weapons bays for missiles designed to reduce the aircraft's radar signature.

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