The Institute for National Security Studies asserted that problems in
the U.S. F-35 program would affect the delivery schedule for Israel. In a
report, author Yiftah Shapir pointed to a U.S. decision to postpone the
target date for the F-35A and F-35C to at least 2016.
"This change will undoubtedly affect the date of delivery of the planes
to Israel," the report, titled "The F-35 Deal: An Enlightened Purchase?" said.
Authored by Yiftah Shapir, the report questioned the effectiveness and
need for the F-35, which he said was acquired for political reasons. In
August 2010, Israel and the United States signed a Letter of Offer and
Agreement for 20 JSF aircraft for an estimated $2.7 billion, with delivery
scheduled to begin in 2016.
"Therefore, if the consideration for purchasing the plane was tactical
only, the deal, under the current price conditions, is not justified," the
The report stressed that JSF could not conduct air-to-air missions as the F-15 and appeared inferior to the F-16 in close air combat. The stealth F-35 was also said to be incapable of such missions as offensive escort and deep
"As for the plane's stealth capability, this will undoubtedly give it an advantage, especially in the first stages of an attack in well protected
areas," the report said. "Nonetheless, the stealth capability must be taken
with a grain of salt, since the plane is limited to carrying weapons in
internal bomb compartments only. Hanging munitions on underwing hard points
would compromise its stealth capacity."
The F-35 internal bomb bay could contain far fewer munitions than that
of the F-15 or F-16. The report said the F-35, already hampered by limited
range, could contain only two one-ton bombs.
"Therefore, even when the F-35 is in service, the F-15I and F-16I will
likely be the preferred planes for such missions," the report said.
Shapir, regarded as a leading defense analyst, said most of the F-35's
stealth capability could be acquired through the enhancement of existing
fourth-generation aircraft. He said JSF radar capabilities could be acquired by the installation of the AESA radar on the F-16.
"However, the Israeli electronic and anti-electronic warfare systems are considered preferable to every foreign-made system, and furthermore, they are uniquely tailored to threats in the Israeli arena," the report said. "For this
reason, Israel has conducted prolonged negotiations on
installation of Israeli-made electronic warfare systems in the planes,
although it is not clear if ultimately Israel achieved this requirement."
Israel had been interested in the F-35B, which contains vertical
take-off and landing capabilities. But the U.S. Navy variant has been
plagued by technical obstacles and the F-35B was said to be aerodynamically
inferior to the A variant.
The report said the Israel Air Force would have preferred the F-22
fighter, but was blocked by Congress. As a result, Shapir concluded that the air force would be required to retain a large F-16 fleet for "many years." The report said the air force would also modernize its smaller F-15 fleet based
on the assessment that JSF could not match the F-15's capabilities.
"Despite the [F-35] plane's advantages, it will not be the panacea for
Israel's problems and most of its tasks can be performed with similar
effectiveness through existing planes with one type of upgrade or another,"
the report said.
"The high price of the F-35, which will allow the purchase
of only a small number of aircraft, will in any case require the air force
to retain a large number of F-16s for many years. Furthermore, the plane
cannot be a substitute for the F-15s, which are used today for other air
superiority missions and long term attack missions. As such, these planes
are also expected to stay in the order of battle for many years, again, with upgrades of one kind or another."