US refusing to let Israeli systems into F-35

Officials say 2014 delivery of fighter jet may be delayed; Israel yet to officially place order.

f-35 really cool 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
f-35 really cool 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An American refusal to permit the installation of Israeli-made defense systems in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) may postpone the planned delivery of the fifth-generation stealth jet beyond the target date of 2014, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. According to the officials, defense industries such as Rafael, Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta have protested the decision with Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Pinchas Buhris who last month made a lightning visit to Washington DC to discuss the issue with the Pentagon. The officials said that the new Obama administration would likely make a decision on the issue in the coming months. Israel and the US are scheduled to sign a Letter of Agreement by the end of the year. Negotiations on the integration of Israeli technology began several years ago after Israel paid $20 million to receive the low-level status of a Security Cooperation Participant in the JSF program. Nine countries - including the US, Britain, Turkey and Australia - are full members of the JSF program. Last week, in an interview with Aviation Week, Maj.-Gen. Charles Davis, executive officer of the JSF program, said that Israel would not be allowed to put its own systems in the JSF, also known as the F-35. "They [Israel] are going to buy aircraft that have basically the same capability as all the others," Davis told Aviation Week. "They are trying to do a requirements analyses for future missions. That [customization] is doable through software. It is not doable by Israelis sticking boxes in the airplane. [Elbit and Elta being involved] is not an option," he says. Israel has asked for the right to install its own electronic warfare, radar, munitions and command and control systems into the aircraft while citing special IAF operational requirements. In the past, officials said, before announcing a decision to purchase an aircraft the MOD first negotiated the installation of Israeli-made systems and then announced that it had made a decision. This, officials said, was the case with the F-15I and the F-16I. However in the case of the JSF, the US refused to conduct the negotiations with the MOD until an announcement that it would procure the plane had been made. The announcement was made in October in an official request to the Pentagon. A defense industry source familiar with the negotiations between Israel and the US said that the talks were "tough" but predicted that a deal would be reached in the coming months and that Israel would finally place an official order. Last week, the Post reported that each plane would cost Israel over $100 million and not the estimated $50-$60 million that Lockheed Martin had initially claimed it would cost. Defense sources said that the cost would make it very difficult for Israel to see through with its initial intention to purchase 75 aircraft. He said that if not for operational considerations, the IDF would have preferred to wait several years before ordering the aircraft and once the price goes down.