In August 2010, the Israeli Defense Ministry signed a Letter of Order
and Acceptance for the procurement of 20 F-35s from Lockheed Martin. At the
time, officials said the deal, reported at $2.7 billion, stipulated initial
delivery by 2016, Middle East Newsline reported.
But technical delays could block the development of an operational JSF. Officials cited a series of problems, including avionics, engine
"The F-35 is vital to our existence and will provide a dramatic leap in
capabilities," Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan said.
Since then, however, Israel has remained the only foreign country to
have ordered JSF. JSF partners such as Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and
Turkey have been dismayed by the performance of the F-35 as well as cost
overruns and the U.S. refusal to release source codes.
Israeli officials now acknowledge that the delivery schedule could be
delayed by several years and spark a crisis within the air force. They said
the air force has urged the Defense Ministry to begin negotiations to lease
surplus F-15 fighter-jets from the United States.
"I imagine a dialogue will start with the Americans over a new schedule
and changes," Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani said.
Shani told the Israeli daily Haaretz that an Israeli delegation would
hold talks with the U.S. Defense Department over JSF. He said the delegation
would also discuss such issues as technology transfer and the installation
of Israeli systems on the F-35, something long opposed by Washington.
At this point, the Israel Air Force continues to project optimism. On
May 25, Nehushtan told the Fischer Institute for Air and Space Strategic
Studies that he still believes in the JSF program despite expected delays
and wants air training to begin in 2016.
"The forecasted delays in the delivery of the F-35 to [Israel] is less
dramatic than what's being said," Nehushtan said.
For its part, however, Congress has placed the administration of
President Barack Obama on notice that the $1 trillion JSF program could be
canceled. In late May, the Senate Armed Services Committee asked the
Pentagon to draft alternatives to the F-35, the cost of which has risen by
more than 50 percent.
"We cannot sacrifice other important acquisitions in the Department of
Defense investment portfolio to pay for this capability," Senate Armed
Services Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin said.