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Thursday, November 18, 2010     GET REAL

Congressional policy center proposes the axe for high-end programs including JSF fighters

WASHINGTON — Congress is considering the termination of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
  • Related Story: Obama offers Israel 20 additional F-35 jets for a 90-day construction freeze November 16

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    In October 2010, Israel signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for 20 JSF F-35s in a deal estimated at $2.8 billion.

    A congressional-aligned panel has proposed the end of several huge U.S. military programs, including the F-35 fighter-jet. The Bipartisan Policy Center, headed by leading former members of Congress, said the elimination of the $1 trillion JSF program would not endanger U.S. security.

    "Investment priorities could include deferring or terminating such programs as the F-35 fighter jet, V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, Virginia Class submarine, and ballistic missile defense, even while the U.S. retains substantial and superior capabilities in all of these areas," the center said in a report.

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    The report was issued on Nov. 17 amid a reported U.S. offer of 20 JSF aircraft to Israel in exchange for the extension of a freeze of Jewish construction in the West Bank. Negotiations on the package, which has not been acknowledged by the administration, have been stalled by Israel's insistence that the JSF and other U.S. offers be relayed in a formal document.

    The panel, assigned to find ways to reduce the huge U.S. debt, also called for the termination of the V-22 aircraft, Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the Medium Extended Air Defense System. The report, titled "Restoring America's Future," cited delays in the JSF program amid both technical and administrative mishaps.

    "F-35 costs have risen sharply, leading it to breach cost-control standards applying to Department of Defense procurement," the report said.

    The administration has refused to confirm Israeli claims that Obama offered to donate another 20 JSF in exchange for a Jewish construction freeze.

    Israel has been the only foreign country to formally order JSF from prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Turkey, a partner in JSF, has been negotiating a proposal to purchase up to 100 aircraft, and Qatar was examining the fighter-jet.

    "The F-35 next-generation fighter jet is intended to provide air superiority over an adversary's air forces and close air support to land forces," the report said. "Current generation F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, and AV-8B’s remain superior or competitive with any other fighter program in the world and capable of penetrating air defenses."

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