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Wednesday February 2, 2000

U.S.-Israeli Helicopter Deal Stalls

JERUSALEM ( AP ) - A $450 million Israeli purchase of U.S. Apache attack helicopters has stalled because the United States refuses to give Israel the helicopter system's sensitive software codes.

The Israelis said Wednesday they are requesting the codes so they would be able to modify the helicopters, if necessary, to meet future threats.

``It's obvious we need this information,'' Air Force Chief Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu said.

But the United States is concerned that giving Israel the codes would allow it to modify and sell U.S. technology developed at great expense, a U.S. official said. The official asked not to be named.

Under a deal announced last October, Israel was to buy 24 AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopters, a new version of the Apache equipped with more sophisticated targeting and radar systems. The first half of the deal is being held up over the dispute.

The new technology increases the helicopter's ability to hone in on targets and lets it attack them without exposing itself. The current Apache has to leave its protected position behind hills and in crevices when shooting at targets.

The Longbow is also more effective in bad weather.

The Israelis have been eager to acquire the Longbows because of problems with their current Apache stock. An Israeli air force official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that the current model suffers from structural and design problems and that its transmission and hydraulic systems were poorly designed.

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