311_ F-35 JSF.
(photo credit: (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)
Less than a month after Israel signed a multibillion-dollar contract to purchase a squadron of stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), the Pentagon revealed on Tuesday that an internal review of the development program had concluded that delivery of the plane would be delayed by three years.
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On Tuesday, the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board submitted a report to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates – called the F-35 Technical Base Review (TBR) – which was prepared to examine the $382 billion program.
The review reportedly contains predictions that the JSF program will encounter a three-year delay and will cost at least $5b. more than initially planned. According to the reports, the United States Air Force will begin to receive the plane in 2018.
In early October, Israel signed a $2.75b. contract with the Pentagon for 20 JSFs, which are, according to the agreement, supposed to be delivered to the Israel Air Force between 2015 and 2017. If the program has encountered delays, it could affect the planned delivery date to Israel.
This is not the first time the JSF program has encountered delays. Earlier problems led the IAF to conduct a review of Boeing’s F-15, which was considered but them dismissed as an interim alternative until the F-35 was deemed operational.
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 – manufactured by Lockheed Martin – will significantly boost Israel’s deterrence in the Middle East and provide it with an edge on adversaries that operate advanced anti-aircraft systems, since it is stealthy and cannot be detected by existing radars.
The Defense Ministry refused to respond officially to the reports, but a senior defense official said he did not believe the report submitted to Gates on Tuesday would impact Israeli plans to receive the plane.
“Even if there is a delay, it does not mean that the Israeli plan will be affected,” the official said.
In response to the report, Lockheed Martin said, “The US government has
been working on an F-35 Technical Baseline Review with full support from
Lockheed Martin. The findings are under review within the government
and will be presented to the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) on November
22. It would be premature for Lockheed Martin to discuss the results of
the TBR until the findings of the DAB have been released.”