F-35 fighter jets .
(photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN)
The F-35 fighter jet is designed to counter advanced threats just like the one posed by the Russian-made S-300 surface to air missile system, a senior Lockheed Martin executive who is visiting Israel said on Wednesday.
Lockheed’s fifth generation F-35 multi-role plane will begin arriving in Israel at the end of next year.
Steve Over, director of the F-35 International Business Development, spoke to journalists a day after Russia announced that it was lifting a ban on the sale of the air defense system to Iran.
Countries like Russia and China “have the capacity to sell advanced air defenses and planes, and will sell to any nation with the money to buy them,” Over said.
The F-35, he added, “has the capacity” to deal with advanced surface and airborne threats, as well as being able to deal with ground insurgencies.
Countries that own fourth generation fighter jets such as the F-16 can no longer invest in upgrades, as the platforms have reached their limit, and acquiring the F-35 is a leap forward in capabilities by some 15 years, Over said. In addition to its stealth functions and advanced maneuverability performance, the jet has advanced multi-spectral sensors that will provide the Israel Air Force with unprecedented situational awareness, he said.
“The pilot will know about his environment... It gives an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that no nation has ever had,” Over said.
The F-35 flies faster and further, and has a greater “angle of attack” (making it more maneuverable) than the F-16, he said.
Israeli pilots who have begun training with the platform say it has caused them to think differently about combat flying, he added.
Unlike previous platforms, the F-35, due to its data links and sensors, can fly in formations in which planes are between 70 and 160 kilometers apart, and remain undetectable to enemy radars.
At Nevatim Air Base, southeast of Beersheba, the IAF unveiled a new F-35 demonstrator provided by Lockheed, which air force officials said will shorten the process of absorbing the new platform.
Although not a full flight simulator, the demonstrator allows pilots to become better acquainted with the plane, its software, targeting and avionics, said Brig.-Gen. Leehu Hacohen, commander of Nevatim Air Base.
Hacohen described the S-300 as a “challenge to the air force,” adding, “We are preparing for a range of scenarios. The air force knows how to deal with complex challenges.”
Alan Norman, Lockheed Martin’s chief test pilot, who provided reporters with explanations of the flight demonstrator, said that even if adversaries “catch a quick glimpse of the plane, there’s nothing they can do about it.”
A senior air force source added that the future squadron commander and five pilots are in the midst of training for the F-35.
“They will be the first pilots, and instructors,” the source said.