Israel Confirms F-35 JSFs, Despite Local Opposition
Israel has agreed to acquire 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs), despite U.S. reluctance to permit their modification with Israeli-designed equipment. Recent talks in Washington between Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed a compromise that was first revealed at the Farnborough airshow. Lockheed Martin vice president Tom Burbage told AIN deliveries to Israel would be split into two phases. There would be no Israeli sensors or weapons on the Phase 1 airplanes, although the country’s unique datalink and C4ISR requirements would be satisfied, Burbage said. But Israel plans to acquire up to 55 more F-35s in a second phase, and these can contain Israeli systems, it now seems. According to the Jerusalem Post, the first 20 aircraft will cost an estimated $2.75 billion, “including simulators, spare parts and the cost of routine maintenance.” They will be delivered from 2015 to 2017. The F-35 go-ahead was agreed by Barak despite strong opposition from one of his predecessors. Moshe Arens, a former vice president of engineering for Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) who later became defense minister and foreign minister in turn, said that the U.S. had adopted a “take it or leave it” approach toward Israel's planned acquisition of F-35s. Arens told the newspaper Haaretz that Israel should have developed the Lavi fighter that was designed by IAI. The F-35 came at “an astronomical price” and Israel “would not be allowed to mount its own systems” on the aircraft, he said.