f-35 fighter jet.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
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
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A fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35 is said to be capable of
evading all radars and anti-aircraft missile systems.
“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
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.
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.
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.