Israel F-35 modification plans deferred for cost containment
By Alon Ben-David
Israel has decided to defer a requirement to integrate indigenous munitions and an additional fuel tank on the first batch of Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) it plans to procure over fears it could push rising costs still higher.
Each of the first 25 aircraft could cost USD130 million should Israel be granted US government approval expected in November to install indigenous electronic warfare (EW) and C4I systems on the future fighter, Israeli defence sources told Jane's.
The price of the aircraft has already spurred internal debate; the Israeli Ministry of Defence (MoD) and commanders of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) land forces have called for the acquisition to be delayed by two years, while the Israel Air Force (IAF) has maintained the need to begin payments in 2010 ahead of first deliveries in 2014.
"The funds made available by a two-year delay [in procurement of the F-35] could satisfy land forces' requirements for hundreds of Namer infantry fighting vehicles and navy needs for new corvettes," one senior defence source told Jane's .
"The F-35 will not be relevant in any imminent conflict with Iran, while the Namers are necessary for renewed fighting in Lebanon, which will be part of any confrontation with Iran," added another IDF source.
Conversely, any delays from Israel could prove costly as Lockheed Martin may not be able to ensure deliveries by 2016, Yung Le, who directs the Israeli F-35 programme for the US company, told Jane's . "Other orders will occupy the F-35 production line at that time," Le said.257 of 516 words
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