F-35 jet purchase decision pending

Israel would be first foreign country to purchase fighter.

f-35 fighter jet (photo credit: Associated Press)
f-35 fighter jet
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks regarding the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), senior defense officials said on Wednesday.
This would make Israel the first foreign customer to sign a contract to purchase the advanced stealth fighter jet.
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Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Udi Shani convened a meeting with top IDF officers Wednesday evening to discuss the potential deal, which is expected to be decided upon at a meeting later this month that will be chaired by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Last month, the Pentagon sent the Defense Ministry a Letter of Agreement and gave it about 60 days to respond.
Under the proposed deal, Israel will likely purchase a single squadron of the advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, which it would begin to receive in 2015, assuming that the project does not encounter additional delays in its development. The JSF is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
“The ball is in their court,” V.-Adm. Jeffrey Wieringa, who heads the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, told Reuters on Monday. “I am waiting for them to make a decision any day.”
Israel is primarily concerned with the price of the aircraft, which could go as high as close to $150 million.
As a result has also considered delaying the procurement and instead purchasing additional F-15s from Boeing.
The F-35 will be one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world and, according to the IAF, would significantly boost Israel’s deterrence in the region.
Israel is also seeking to receive a high level of “offset” on the aircraft and has held talks with the Pentagon that could lead to business for Israeli industries valued at close to $4 billion.
This would mean that Israeli defense industries would receive a large percentage of the business so that money Israel spends on the acquisition is put back into the country’s economy.
One example of offset is the contract Israel Aerospace Industries has won to produce wing boxes for F-16s made by the Bethesda, Maryland- based Lockheed Martin, which is also the primary contractor for the F-35.
Israel Air Force chief Maj.- Gen. Ido Nehushtan held talks in recent days with his Canadian counterpart, Lt.- Gen. Andre Deschamps, who arrived in Israel on Sunday for his first visit here for talks with senior IDF officials on various issues, among them the JSF.
Last week, Canada announced that it will buy 65 F-35 fighter jets in a deal that will reach over $6.5b.
The first aircraft will arrive in 2016 and are scheduled to replace Canadian F-18 Hornets.
During their talks, Nehushtan presented Deschamps with a updated intelligence review of the Middle East, with a focus on Iran as well as Hizbullah.
Deschamps visited the Tel Nof Air Force Base and the newly established squadron of the Heron TP, Israel’s largest unmanned aerial vehicle, which was declared operational earlier this year. He also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
In 2008, Canada purchased Heron 1 UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries in a $95m. deal. The drones were used for operations in Afghanistan.
“The relationship between the IAF and the Canadian Air Force are extremely important,” Deschamps said.
“This was an excellent opportunity to visit here. I learned a lot from you.”