Israel innovates to modernise air force amid financial constraints
By Yaakov Katz
Financial concerns are requiring new innovations in procurement for the Israel Air Force (IAF) as it continues its modernisation drive to replace fighter, transport and trainer aircraft.
One of the most important programmes facing delays due to cost is the planned procurement of a first squadron of 25 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs).
Years of negotiations with the US Department of Defense and the prime contractor were to result in a letter of agreement (LoA) in coming weeks, setting a base price for each of the advanced fighter aircraft at USD130 million.
A senior IAF source told Jane's on 28 February that while the United States and Israel have bridged most of their differences on the integration of Israeli indigenous technology into the aircraft, the LoA will probably be postponed. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including the decision by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to sack the general in charge of the troubled JSF programme.
"We are committed to purchasing this aircraft," the officer said. "There have been some delays in the development as well as personnel changes in the US, which set things back a bit. We would like to nail down the first contract and then begin moving forward with the next 50 jets, delivery of which will span the next decade."
Talks were, however, continuing to lock down a 'delivery window' in late 2014, even if the contract is not signed in March as expected.246 of 554 words
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