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Monday, February 28, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israelis debating value of F-35s amid problems affecting delivery

TEL AVIV — Israel expects additional delays in the Joint Strike Fighter program.


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.

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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 report said.

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 interdictions.

"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."


Use the $2.7 billion on proven and upgraded technology on your legacy jets. F-22s would be part of the answer if you can obtain them.

Gary      3:52 p.m. / Wednesday, March 9, 2011

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