F 35 fighter jet 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel does not believe that American plans to delay initial operational
capability of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will affect the aircraft’s scheduled
arrival here in late 2016, defense officials said on Thursday.
to Aviation Week, the US Air Force is now planning to upgrade more than 300 F-16
fighter jets and potentially some F-15s as well to fill the gap caused by delays
to the development of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, a fifth-generation fighter jet
with stealth capabilities.
In testimonies to Congress last week, senior
American air force officers warned that the aircraft might not become
operational in the US until 2018 – two years later than initially
Israel was looking into the report to see if the possible
delays would affect IAF procurement plans.
In addition, the head of
operational tests and evaluation in the Pentagon recently issued a letter urging
the US defense leadership to delay flight training for a number of months to
allow additional test flights.
Last October, Israel signed a $2.75
billion deal to purchase a squadron of 20 F-35s from Lockheed Martin, and has
received Pentagon approval to purchase an additional 55 at a later
The IDF has budgeted the procurement of a second squadron under the
military’s new multi-year plan, which is expected to go into effect in the
beginning of 2012.
The F-35 will be one of the most-advanced fighter jets
in the world and will enable Israel to phase out some of its older F-15 and F-16
According to the IAF, the plane will significantly boost the
country’s deterrence in the Middle East and provide it with an edge on
adversaries that operate advanced anti-aircraft systems, since it is stealthy
cannot be detected by existing radars.
The Defense Ministry released a
statement saying that its officials were in daily contact with the Pentagon
regarding the development of the aircraft and that it was scheduled to arrive in
Israel according to the schedule agreed upon with the US earlier this year. IAF
pilots are expected to begin training in America in early 2016, and the first
planes will be delivered to Israel later that year.