F-16 Fighter Jet 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel Air Force is moving forward with plans to purchase a second squadron
of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and hopes to be able to place the order in the
coming year and after resolving the standoff with the Treasury over the defense
According to initial plans, the IAF would place the order for the
second squadron in late 2012-early 2013 and begin receiving the planes in 2020.
It is possible however that the US would attach the new squadron to the one
ordered in 2010 and expedite the delivery if the order is placed
Israel finalized the procurement of its first squadron of 20 F-35s
in a $2.75 billion deal in October, 2010. The aircraft are manufactured by
Lockheed Martin and IAF pilots are expected to begin training on them in the US
in 2016 with their planned arrival in Israel in early 2017.
Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who will step down in April, was a big proponent of the
deal and overcame heavy opposition within the defense establishment to gain the
government’s approval for the 2010 deal.
His successor, current head of
the IDF Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, was also supportive of the
deal and is expected to push for the second squadron immediately after taking up
the post in a month.
The fifth-generation stealth F-35 is purported to be
one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world with the ability to fly
undetected in enemy territory.
Its uniqueness stems not only from its
stealth capabilities but also from its integrated sensor suite that provides
pilots with unprecedented situational awareness and enables information sharing
between the various aircraft.
The second contract would likely be for a
similar number of aircraft and could mean – depending on when the second deal is
signed – that the IAF could have 40 operational aircraft by the end of the
decade. Nehushtan recently decided that the F- 35s would be operated out of the
Nevatim air force base in the Negev.
News of the possible procurement of
a second squadron comes amid increasing speculation that Israel is preparing to
launch an aerial strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
years, the IAF has invested in qualifying some of its older model aircraft for
long-range strike missions. In addition to the F-15I and F-16I, the IAF has
reportedly already qualified an additional two F-15 squadrons for long-range
missions armed with smart bombs and conformal fuel tanks.
The IAF is also
moving forward with the Barak 2020 program aimed at extending the lifespan of
its F-16 C/D models to the next decade.
The first aircraft arrived in the
The upgrades include the installation of new systems for avionics,
mission-debriefing and flight-control system.
The aircraft will also be
fitted with new central display units and high-resolution screens aimed at
increasing pilots’ situational awareness.