In an effort to obtain initial operational capability of the F-35 Joint Strike
Fighter as soon as possible, the Israel Air Force is in talks with the Pentagon
regarding the possibility that Israeli pilots will begin training on the plane
in the United States.
Last year, Israel signed a $2.75 billion deal to
purchase 20 fifth-generation stealth JSFs. Under the original deal, Israel was
to begin receiving the planes in 2015 but due to development delays, delivery
will likely now begin in 2017.
With F-35 delay, IAF looking at purchase of used F-15s
US refuses to confirm offer of 20 F-35 fighter jets
As a result, the IAF is hoping to obtain
Pentagon approval for IAF pilots to begin training in the US as early as 2016,
around the time that American pilots will begin training on the advanced fighter
The F-35’s uniqueness stems not only from its stealth capabilities
but also due to its integrated sensor suite which provides pilots with
unprecedented situational awareness and enables the sharing of information
between the various aircraft.
If approved, IAF pilots will train for
around a year in the US and then return to Israel with the aircraft delivery,
which is expected to commence in 2017 and be completed by 2018. Israel has
received Pentagon approval to purchase an additional 55 aircraft.
Wednesday, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan said that while there were
delays in the development of the F-35, Israel required the jet, which would
provide it with new and unprecedented capabilities.
“The plane will
provide the air force with new capabilities like in the past when the F-15 and
F-16 arrived and pulled the IAF after them in terms of doctrine and operations,”
Nehushtan said at a conference at the Fischer Institute for Air and Space
Strategic Studies in Herzliya.
Nehushtan’s remarks came after the Senate
Armed Services Committee questioned top Pentagon officials last week on the
aircraft’s rising development costs, expected to now reach $1
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the committee,
referred to the program as “incredibly troubled” and a “train wreck.”
said Lockheed has done an “abysmal job” at containing cost overruns and urged
that the company absorb at least some of them. He also suggested that the
Defense Department mull possible alternatives to the F-35 if the rising costs
cannot be contained.