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Monday, August 16, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israeli defense minister approves purchase of 20 Joint Strike Fighters

TEL AVIV — Israel's Defense Ministry, in a decision expected to be approved by the rest of the government, has decided to purchase the U.S.-origin Joint Strike Fighter.

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The Defense Ministry has recommended the procurement of 20 F-35 fighter-jets in a deal estimated at $2.7 billion. The ministry has relayed its recommendation to the Cabinet, which was expected to approve the proposal over the next week.

"The F-35 is the fighter plane of the future that will allow Israel to maintain its aerial superiority and its technological advantage in the region," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "The F-35 will give the Israel Air Force enhanced capabilities, both near and far, to help strengthen Israel's national security."

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In a statement on Aug. 15, Barak did not provide details of the proposed F-35 procurement package, with deliveries expected to begin in 2015. Officials said the ministry recommendation acknowledged that Israel would not be allowed to make any modifications to JSF, including the installation of indigenous subsystems.

Under the recommendation, Israel would be the first foreign country to purchase JSF. The eight partners in the $1 trillion program, concerned over significant delays and technical obstacles, have not yet ordered the aircraft.

Officials said Barak failed to win U.S. consent to revise its Letter of Agreement regarding JSF. They said the U.S. Defense Department has agreed to consider Israeli requests to install electronic warfare and other subsystems on subsequent orders of the F-35.

Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani said JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin has pledged to provide Israel with $4 billion of subcontracts. Shani said the United States would eventually allow Israel to offer its own subsystems for all JSF clients.



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