'Pentagon refusing Israeli F-35 demands'

Officials: Defense Ministry wants to replace 50% of systems in JSF with Israeli-made technology.

January 20, 2010 06:56
1 minute read.
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f-35 really cool 224 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Defense Ministry has told the Pentagon that it will purchase the stealth-enabled Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) if it is allowed to replace 50 percent of the systems with Israeli-made technology, defense officials said Tuesday.

According to the officials, the investment in purchasing the JSF - also known as the F-35 - would only be cost-effective if some of the money went back to Israeli defense industries. One example was the contract Israel Aerospace Industries won to produce wing boxes for F16s made by Lockheed Martin, also the primary contractor for the F-35.

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The F-35 will be one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world and, according to the IAF, would significantly boost Israel's deterrence in the Middle East. The planes are expected to cost around $130 million each.

According to the official, Israel will not likely give up the demand to install its own electronic-warfare and radar systems on the plane. The Pentagon, the official said, had already approved some of Israel's demands, but was continuing to deny it access to the plane's internal computers which would prevent the installation of all of the systems the air force had requested.

"We need to retain a qualitative edge over the F-35s that will be sold," the official explained.

Another problem has been the US's refusal to allow Israel to independently maintain the aircraft. Under the current proposal, if a customer encounters a mechanical malfunction, the plane will have to be sent to a maintenance center, likely to be set up in Italy.

"This is not something we can live with," the official said. "Can you imagine that during a war we will send one of our aircraft to Italy to be fixed?"

In a letter of request that the Defense Ministry submitted to the Pentagon in July, Israel asked to purchase 25 stealth fighter jets, but officials said Tuesday that the target date for an official order, if the negotiations are completed, would likely be in the next six months.

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