IAF interested in new US-made jet

Israel considers plane capable of vertical take-off, fearing targeting of runways during war.

new plane 224.88 (photo credit: Lockheed Martin)
new plane 224.88
(photo credit: Lockheed Martin)
Fearing the possibility that airfields will be bombed and destroyed during a war, the Israel Air Force has expressed interest in purchasing a squadron of Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. In September, the IDF announced its plans to purchase at least 25 F-35 jets, with the option to purchase up to dozens more. Delivery was initially scheduled for 2014, but The Jerusalem Post revealed in October that the Pentagon had in principle agreed to work to move up delivery of the fifth-generation and stealth-enabled aircraft to Israel by as early as 2012. The agreement was reached during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Washington. Talks about the aircraft between Israel and the US have picked up speed in recent months, including the IAF's request to integrate its own technology into the jet. In November, Brig.-Gen. Yohanan Locker was in Fort Worth, Texas for talks with Lockheed Martin officials. Eight countries - including Britain, Turkey and Australia - are members of the JSF. Israel enjoys the status of a Security Cooperation Participant after paying $20 million in 2003 to obtain access to information accumulated during the development of the jet, which will be priced at somewhere between $50-$60 million. The IAF had initially planned to purchase the standard version of the aircraft, the F-35A, which takes off from runways. While Israel does not have aircraft carriers - traditionally used for short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft - the decision to consider the vertical airplane, called the F-35B, was made due to an understanding that at a time of war, Israeli bases and runways will be heavily targeted by enemy missiles. The IAF would not confirm the report, and officials said that it was still premature to discuss which version of the plane it would be ordering. Last week, Lockheed Martin held a rollout ceremony for the F-35B at its production plant in Fort Worth. "This generational leap in technology will enable us to operate a fleet of fighter/attack aircraft from the decks of ships, existing runways or from unimproved surfaces at austere bases. We find that capability extremely valuable," Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said during the ceremony. The heart of the F-35B is a STOVL propulsion system comprising the most powerful engine ever flown in a jet fighter, in addition to a shaft-driven counter-rotating lift fan situated behind the cockpit. During vertical or short takeoffs and vertical landings, doors above and below the lift fan open, and the aircraft can hover like a helicopter. In this configuration, the F-35B can hover, land vertically, take off in a few hundred feet fully loaded, or take off vertically with a light load. When the aircraft transitions from jet-borne to conventional wing-borne flight, the doors close and the pilot can then accelerate to supersonic speeds.