IAF to pick new fighter by end of July

Israel will decide whether to buy next version of Joint Strike Fighter.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The defense establishment will hold a series of high-level consultations over the next month with the aim of determining, by the end of July, whether it will buy the fifth-generation stealth Joint Strike Fighter.
The first meeting will be held in the coming weeks and be led by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as well as OC Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan. The second meeting, scheduled for the end of this month, will be led by Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani. The final meeting, scheduled for July, will be headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Despite a recent round of JSF-related talks between Israeli and American officials, the parties have yet to reach an agreement regarding the sale of the plane to Israel.
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. 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 was the contract Israel Aerospace Industries 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.
In March, Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, met with international partners to discuss a 13-month development delay in the JSF program. Israel expects that the program might face even more delays and that if it decides to buy the plane it will not arrive until 2016.
The plane’s high price is also of great concern. According to estimates within the Defense Ministry, each plane will cost $94 million but with additions that Israel will need to make to it, the price will skyrocket to between $140m. and $150m.