Israel pushing air sales to Romania

JERUSALEM — Israel Aircraft Industries plans to send three technical teams to Romania next month to pursue efforts to sell Bucharest a list of military and civilian aviation systems.

IAI executives said the deals could significantly expand the company's presence in Romania, now dominated by IAI's chief rival, the Haifa-based Elbit Systems Ltd.

The teams, which will be hosted by Romania's ministries of defense, industry, and transport, will explore the sales of IAI's Galaxy executive jet, unmanned aircraft vehicles, and electronic warfare systems.

"We have many programs with IAI," Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile said Sunday on a tour of IAI. "We are interested in the possibility of purchase, as well as industrial cooperation."

IAI president Moshe Keret said his company has ties with Romania's aerospace industry. Although he did not elaborate, IAI subsidiary Elta Electronics Industries Ltd., Ashdod, serves as a subcontractor for the upgrade of the MiG-21 fighter jet. Elta is supplying the fire-control radar for the combat plane in a contract led by Elbit.

"We have about 150 Romanian experts working on the Galaxy project," Keret said. "We have a lot of ideas and programs to do mutually with the Romanian aerospace industry. We consider Romania to be a natural and very experienced place, with good people."

Romanian officials acknowledged that the biggest hurdle to expanded cooperation with IAI will be financing. Bucharest is undergoing a severe financial crisis and the International Monetary Fund has recommended that Romania curtail several defense projects, including one that would develop a Cobra-based Dracula helicopter with the U.S. firm Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.