[Freemanlist2] Israel Quietly Debates JSF
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Israel Quietly Debates JSF
TEL AVIV [MENL] -- Israel has been quietly debating the feasibility of the
Joint Strike Fighter.
Israeli sources said the military and government were discussing the
future of the F-35 project. They said members of the Cabinet of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been warning that Israel could become
increasingly dependent on a flawed fighter-jet rejected by most NATO air
"JSF could be a great aircraft, but it will take years to reach that
level," a source close to the debate said. "Meanwhile,
we will have dozens of very expensive aircraft with limited capabilities."
The sources said the Defense Ministry, responsible for procurement,
shares the concerns over JSF. The ministry ordered 33 F-35As in two batches,
with the first aircraft expected to arrive by 2017.
So far, a Cabinet panel stopped a recommendation by the Israel Air Force
to acquire up to 23 JSF aircraft from prime contractor Lockheed Martin in
2015. The panel, then headed by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, cut the
order to 14.
Still, the air force has lobbied for a third order of JSF -- this time
for 17 aircraft. The sources said the air force wanted a fleet of two
squadrons or 50 F-35s by 2020.
The Cabinet panel has been briefed by aerospace specialists on the flaws
of JSF, including inadequate range, weapons payload and stealth capability.
The panel was also warned that the United States would not share the source
code of JSF, thereby preventing the air force from modifying the
fifth-generation platform. Under the project, Israel must send JSF engines
to either Turkey or the United States for repairs.
The sources said the Netanyahu government has urged Washington to sell
Israel the advanced F-15 fighter-jet approved for Saudi Arabia. But the
administration of President Barack Obama has presented JSF as the only
platform available for use with U.S. military aid to Israel of more than $3
billion a year.
"The overall feeling is that Israel can't continue on this path and
needs proven combat platforms," another source said. "The price that Israel
would pay for procuring and operating and training for 50 inadequate
aircraft would be strategic."
So far, the Israel Air Force has sought to reassure the Cabinet that JSF
was far more reliable than portrayed by investigations by the U.S. Defense
Department and JSF office. The sources cited U.S. restrictions on initial
purchases of such aircraft as the F-15 and F-16 in the 1980s and 1990s,
later lifted by Washington.
"There is a subtext to the air force argument that we've gone too far
and can't start all over again," the second source said. "That would mean a
delay of a decade."
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
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