Clearing the decks for the sale of US $1.1 billion Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to India, the Israeli security cabinet headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday night approved the deal.
The final terms for the deal were agreed upon during the discussions Israeli Defence Ministry Director, Gen Amos Yaron, had with Indian officials in New Delhi in December.
Indian and Israeli negotiating teams are said to have finished drafting the agreement according to which the Israel Aircraft Industries will receive an advance payment of some US $350 million after the deal is signed.
Sources in Jerusalem said Israeli Air Force Commander-in-Chief, Major-General Dan Halutz, is working out the 'final technical details' with India on the deal, which will be concluded in the coming weeks.
Under the AWACS deal, the Israeli Phalcon radar is to be mounted and integrated on the Russian-designed IL-76 plane made by Beriyev Aircraft Design Bureau, a unit of Irkut Aerospace Corporation.
"We hope to sign the contract with Israel, latest by April," a senior official of Irkut Aerospace Corporation told PTI in Irkutsk, Siberia. Irkut also produces Sukhoi Su-30MKI war planes for India.
The payment for the planes for the Phalcon system is to be spread over a number of years, Israel Radio reported.
The Indian Air Force had tried Russian A-50 AWACS planes during wargames a few years ago, but later decided to go for the Israeli Phalcon mounted on the IL-76 platform with Russian control systems.
Israel Aircraft Industries Chief Executive Moshe Keret said the approval of the Phalcon sale by the Israeli security cabinet was an 'important milestone' to finalising the deal, which would be signed within several weeks.
Last year, Israel had postponed the Phalcon sale under pressure from the US, which cited tensions between India and Pakistan, but Washington later gave its approval.