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Air Supremacy: Lockheed F35, Boeing F15SE in Combat for the Skies Over Israel

F35i Teething problems

Unfortunately for Lockheed, and Israel the F35 story still has no happy ending. The plane is over budget by tens of millions per aircraft, late, overshadowed by its more specialty capable yet now canceled big brother (F-22), and crucially for Israel -  Is sealed off electronically.

Without the ability to access internal computers and replace key systems with Israeli variants, for which IAF weaponry & training are already in place it has become tough to justify outlaying so much money for stealth capability. As a result the heat is on so to speak here in Israel, and Boeing is making the big push for a huge interim win, with the F15SE..

[...] Meanwhile, Israel’s negotiations with the U.S. administration and Lockheed are expected to end with a deal early next year. For now, the gaps between the two sides are significant.

There are a number of issues in addition to the cost of the F-35, including disagreement over Israel’s request for modifications in equipping the aircraft with locally produced electronics, the plane’s relatively short range and limited bomb capacity, and the costs for establishing a separate maintenance infrastructure for the aircraft.

Another major issue is the projected delivery schedule, with 2014 being the earliest date the F-35 would arrive in Israel, and 2016 the date for the first operational squadron.

In comparison, some aspects of the Silent Eagle package make it a promising possibility. Boeing is talking about a $100 million price tag per aircraft, a significantly longer range than the F-35, and a maintenance infrastructure that could be based on the one for Israel’s F-15 fleet. Delivery may begin by 2012. [...]

The Future Is Now?

Clearly the competition is fierce for multi billion dollar contracts, my last blog about the topic generated interested visits from both companies. Both these export aircraft are new on the market and each would benefit greatly being fielded by the Israeli Air Force. Personally, I believe we may see in the end both aircraft do just that. The original tender was for a possible 75 JSF aircraft. Israel could in theory push out the JSF procurement to a later date, since arrival dates are so far out in any case and put together a squadron starting around 2018-19, or even into the next decade. By then the US would likely not waste everyone’s time with computer issues, the JSF would have seen some longer term testing, and the fighter will have been improved.

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled March 17th, 2009

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled March 17th, 2009

 In the interim, 25 additional F15-SEs could dovetail nicely into the established maintenance, training and equipment pipeline more quickly & cheaply. We need solutions in the near term. The F35 has shorter range, and less room for weapons. These delivery dates of 2016 are eons away. When Iran went Islamic Fundamentalist, the Shah’s brand new F-16 order was canceled. Israel took over the procurement and the new F-16s first saw action taking out the Osirak Iraqi nuclear reactor a few short months later.

This F-35 test fighter seen over Texas displays the JSF program national flags of those countries participating. Israel is not one of them, relegated to a more minor partner. It remains to be seen whether or not the Star of David will be painted an any F35s any time soon..

This F-35 test fighter seen over Texas displays the JSF program national flags of those countries participating. Israel is not one of them, relegated to a more minor partner. It remains to be seen whether or not the Star of David will be painted on any F35s any time soon..

No Strike For You! 

That does not appear to be the legacy of the F35 to share. The F35 is late to the party and under dressed, the F15 Strike Eagle will have to do the job in the near term. In that case we should order more of them. Currently, the F35 doesn’t allow us to enter crucial systems, which makes us dependent all the more on the USA – We have seen how this type of disastrous dependence can now affect our nation’s very ability to field these weapons and defend ourselves, most recently under President Obama. This is akin to buying a car from the Obama owned General Motors and he gets to keep the keys, deciding when we are allowed to drive and when not.

Today everyone is ‘Smart Shopping’

This new encroachment style is not something we should encourage, least of all in our weapons systems - stealth or no stealth. We need a fighter that has the range, and systems that can defend us from Iran. I know according to the Obama school of thought this may be sometime in 2017.. Unfortunately President Obama is wrong.  Those are Israel’s needs, they are not currently focused on 2017, with limited access to systems yet! I think we should fill them today and let the JSF wait for tomorrow, pick up later short range VTOL versions in greater quantity perhaps with our longer arm strike and interceptor needs hopefully filled.

In the mean time, we have seen MIG 29s appear, MIG 31s disappear, and now the F35 & F15SE are also in the mix over our skies. Apparently, if you enjoy jet fighter intrigue this is the place to be.

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