Israel certain it won’t be affected by F-35 delays

American air force officers warn upgraded fighter jets might not become operational until 2018, two years later than expected.

November 11, 2011 05:26
2 minute read.
The F-35

F 35 fighter jet 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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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.

According 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.

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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 expected.

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 date.

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 models.

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.

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