Global General

Israel sticks to F-35 despite possible lag to 2018

Updated: 2011-05-12 10:41
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 Israel sticks to F-35 despite possible lag to 2018

The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), is shown in this March 2010 file photograph. [Photo/Agencies]

JERUSALEM - Israel may get its first F-35 warplanes, seen as a bulwark against arch-enemy Iran, from the United States only in 2018 due to production delays, an Israeli newspaper said on Monday.

But the Haaretz daily said Israel is unlikely to buy jets from a rival American manufacturer as a stop-gap.

Israel bought around 20 of the radar-evading Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s, along with ancillary equipment, for $2.75 billion last year, saying delivery would start in 2016 or 2017. Scheduling and budget glitches may have postponed that by a year, Haaretz said. It quoted Ehud Shani, director-general of Israel's Defence Ministry, as playing down the hold-up.

"I am not nervous about it," Shani said, adding that he saw a boon for Israel's bid to incorporate products from its own electronic warfare, communications and other high-tech systems in the F-35, which is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

"This may actually serve our interests. I favour an aircraft with as many Israeli-made systems as possible," he said.

U.S. officials had generally opposed the proposed changes as overly costly and potentially counter-productive.

"In the original timetable, it was argued that there was no time" to incorporate such systems into the Israeli F-35s, Shani said. "We will hear their conclusions and I expect a dialogue with the Americans over the new timetable and the changes."

Israel's current warplanes are mainly Lockheed F-16s and F-15s produced by Boeing, another US manufacturer.

Boeing had lobbied Israel to buy more F-15s but Shani dismissed as "not relevant" the possibility that such jets would stand in for the lagging F-35s.

Haaretz said the Jewish state expected a faster pace of delivery once the first F-35s arrived, and could eventually order up to 10 more of them. Israel was the first F-35 buyer outside the aircraft's co-development group comprising the United States, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. The partners have been projected to buy about 730 jets.