Israel submits request to buy F-35 jets

Israel also asks US gov't for several planes with vertical take-off and landing capabilities.

f-35 jet 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
f-35 jet 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israeli Defense Ministry submitted an official request to the Pentagon two weeks ago asking to purchase a squadron of F-35 stealth-enabled Joint Strike Fighters (JSF). Each plane is estimated to cost between $70-80 million. In addition to the 25 planes, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the Defense Ministry also asked for an option to purchase 50 more. Already in September, the IDF announced its intention to purchase up to 100 JSF fighter jets over the next decade. Two weeks ago it finally submitted an official Letter of Request (LOR) to the Pentagon. The announcement of the Israeli request came as a high-level Syrian military delegation was in Moscow for arms talks with the Russian Defense Ministry. Syria is interested in purchasing advanced MiG fighter jets, S300 anti-aircraft missile systems and advanced submarines. In the request, Israel also asked the US government for permission to purchase a number of JSF planes with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. This would be the first time that the IAF would obtain this capability. The request came out of fear that Israeli airfields would be paralyzed by enemy missiles in a future conflict and would not be able to take off. Delivery will likely begin in 2013 and Bob Trice, a Senior Vice President at Lockheed Martin currently visiting Israel, said Thursday that LM would provide all the necessary support to the US and Israeli governments to facilitate the deal. It is possible however that the plane will arrive earlier. In October, The Jerusalem Post reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had asked the Americans to deliver the plane to Israel as early as 2012. Israel's interest in the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft was first reported in The Jerusalem Post in December. 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. 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. 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. In addition to the request for the JSF, Israel also asked the Pentagon to buy 5-6 C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to begin replacing its aging fleet.