No Deal: JSF F-35 Saga Continues; Israel Still Loitering

2014 & Now Beyond

Yaakov Katz the Jerusalem Post military affairs writer is the man, but in early summer when he wrote about an IDF letter of intent to purchase the JSF fighter.. I skipped right over it. I did so despite the fact that I have been following Israel’s ground & aerial procurement efforts closely on my blog. There are a number of reasons I elected to chuck that news. One of them being that within Israel itself there is no shortage of debate on whether the fighter is still worth the effort & money.

The F-35 Lightning II / JSF

There might have been ‘intent’ all right

In my gut, I chalked up the ‘letter of intent’ announcement to politics, in this case internal Israeli politics. Following these matters I reasoned there was zero progression on outstanding JSF issues, zero progression on getting the skyrocketing price jived with IAF budgets. Instead, it looked to me that heavy advocates of the JSF internally in Israel, pushed the letter of intent in order to close the debate raging over the plane defacto style. By issuing such a letter without progression on the issues the debate is effectively silenced whether or not the relevant debating points are addressed.

Who Knows?

Whether my gut was correct remains an open ended mystery. But thanks to JPOST what we do know is:

  • The letter of intent has gone nowhere
  • The plane’s cost continues to skyrocket, it has now nearly TRIPPLED in cost from initial estimates
  • The target delivery date’s off the mark
  • None of the main issues are nearing resolution
  • Buying platforms from Obama’s Pentagon is like walking through molasses

Here are some quotes from Katz’ piece, read ‘em & weep.

A continued Pentagon refusal to integrate Israeli systems into the stealth Joint Strike Fighter will likely cause delays in the arrival of the advanced fighter jet to Israel, senior defense officials and IDF officers told The Jerusalem Post.

In July, the Defense Ministry submitted an official letter of request to the Pentagon to purchase its first squadron of 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets, but officials said Tuesday that the target for a contract – the beginning of 2010 – would likely not be met.

“The negotiations are still ongoing and we do not even know yet what the price of the aircraft will be,” said a top officer involved in the negotiations. Estimates are that the plane will cost around $100 million. [...]

That cost is fairly astounding, initially we were looking at 35-45  Million. Then it went to 50 Million. There was no shortage of shock when the figures jumped to 65 Million, this is when debate started to really heat up because well, the spiral was going upward out of control. In the USA the Pentagon itself was non too pleased either.

Then we started hearing 85 Million dollars per plane. I know my eyes popped out of my head – But 100 million for a stock variety JSF nulls one of the main JSF thrusts & selling points, it’s former afford-ability. At that rate Israel clearly cannot pick up the numbers previously envisioned. At higher rates it becomes questionable whether we can pick up any at all..

The Israel Air Force had initially hoped to sign a letter of agreement in the coming months, but officials said that until the differences were resolved and a price was determined the contract would be postponed. If that happens, the arrival of the aircraft – initially slated for 2014 – will also be pushed off.

“The plane is not yet operational and is not even in production,” a senior defense official said. “The first military to get the plane will be the US, then the UK and then Israel.” Commenting on the price, the official said that if the plane crossed the $100 million mark Israel would have to seriously reconsider how many aircraft it will purchase.

Indeed, a reminder to myself of a lesson I learned long ago blogging. The proof is in the eating of the pudding. Whether it be Apaches, JSFs, tankers or anything else. In Israel these days we are seemingly in a full holding pattern, and we will continue to loiter while we wait for clearance from our American friends in the Obama control tower..

Should be plenty of background reading on the ongoing saga in the related links below!