US fast-tracking six Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Israel

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon after an in-flight demonstration of the V-22 Osprey in June in Washington. Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images file

Israel will be the first U.S. ally to get the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a star of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday night.

Hagel said in an address to the Anti-Defamation League in New York that delivery would be "expedited," meaning "Israel will get six V-22s out of the next order to go on the assembly line, and they will be compatible with other [Israeli defense] capabilities." 

A senior Pentagon official told NBC News that Israel, facing threats from Iran and Syria and instability in the Sinai peninsula, requested the Ospreys this week.

The Pentagon agreed to reallocate the next group of aircraft to come off the production line, which had been previously assigned to the Marines, to meet the order, the official said.

Israel could get the unique aircraft — which takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like a jet — within as early as two years, and "the Marine Corps will recoup its aircraft at a later date," the official said.

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The announcement comes less than a year after the ADL, one of the nation's leading pro-Israeli activist groups, expressed deep reservations about Hagel's nomination for defense secretary, who as a Republican senator representing Nebraska in 2008 criticized the "Jewish lobby" for "intimidating" U.S. officials. 

In January, as Hagel's nomination was under consideration, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called his record on Israel "at best disturbing and at worst, very troubling."

M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report.