'No delay expected in delivery of F-35 fighter jets'

Defense source tells 'Post' Israel not aware of any delay in delivery of jets to IAF scheduled for 2015 despite reports of technical setbacks.

F-35 fighter jet 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
F-35 fighter jet 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Senior defense sources said on Thursday they expected no delay in the delivery of the first F-35 fighter jets, despite reports from the US in recent days on spats between the Pentagon and the plane’s makers, and technical setbacks.
“We are not aware of any delay,” one source told The Jerusalem Post.
The Israel Air Force is scheduled to receive the first jets in 2015, and will form a squadron of F-35s at the Nevatim Airbase in the Negev desert, which currently houses F-16 squadrons and C-130 Hercules transport planes.
The F-35 will ensure Israel’s regional qualitative edge in the first quarter of the 21st century, defense chiefs say.
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.
Last week, the Pentagon suspended the flights of all F-35 fighter planes after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade of a test aircraft in California.
The F-35 program office said it was too early to know the fleet-wide impact of the engine issue, but it was suspending all flights until an investigation into the issue was completed.
It said it was working closely with Pratt & Whitney, the United Technologies Corp unit which builds the engine for the fighter, and Lockheed Martin Corp, the prime contractor for the radar-evading warplane, to ensure the integrity of the engine and return the F-35 fleet to flight as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon program chief for the F-35 slammed commercial partners Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney on Wednesday, accusing them of trying to “squeeze every nickel” out of the US government and failing to see the long-term benefits of the project.
US Lt.-Gen. Christopher Bogdan made the comments during a visit to Australia, where he has sought to convince lawmakers and generals to stick to a plan to buy 100 of the jets, an exercise complicated by the second grounding of the plane this year and looming US defense cuts.
Reuters contributed to this report.