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Barak approves purchase of F-35s
By YAAKOV KATZ AND JPOST.COM STAFF
08/15/2010
Israel to receive first 20 fighters in 2015, cost estimated at $2.75b.
 
After months of deliberations, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave his approval Sunday for the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) by the Israel Air Force.

A fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35 is said to be capable of evading all radars and anti-aircraft missile systems.

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“The F-35 will provide Israel with continued air superiority and help retain its qualitative military edge in the region,” Barak said Sunday. “The plane will provide the air force with improved capabilities in ensuring Israel’s security when operating near and far away.”

While the Pentagon has approved an Israeli request to purchase 75 aircraft, Israel plans – as a first stage – to buy only 20 JSFs for an estimated $2.75 billion. The deal includes simulators, spare parts and the cost of routine maintenance.

Delivery will begin in 2015 and is expected to last approximately two years.

Barak plans to bring the deal for final approval to the security cabinet in the coming weeks.

Two main obstacles have slowed down Israeli procurement plans until now – the price of the aircraft and US opposition to the integration of Israeli systems into the plane.

The first batch will have a configuration similar to those used by the US Air Force, with minor changes. The second batch, likely to arrive in the second half of the decade, will already be designed according to Israeli specifications and include locally-designed and manufactured systems.

One of the IAF’s main motivations for becoming the first foreign customer to receive the F-35 is concern that other countries in the region – particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia – will also be allowed to purchase the aircraft. Israel, for example, was the first country outside of the US to purchase F-15s, but Saudi Arabia now operates a significant number of those fighters and is in talks with the Pentagon regarding the potential sale of an additional 82.

Defense Ministry Director- General Udi Shani said that one of the considerations in approving the deal was an American offer of $4 billion in offset, meaning that it will purchase $4b. worth of military supplies from Israeli defense industries. Shani said he hoped Israel would eventually receive $5 billion in offset deals from the US.

At the same time, Israeli defense industries will need to hold negotiations with Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the JSF, to pursue possible industrial cooperation. Israel Aerospace Industries, for example, manufactures wings for all F-16 fighter jets.

The one Israeli company currently involved in the F-35’s production is Elbit Systems Ltd., whose helmet will be used by JSF pilots.
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