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Eagle Takes Flight: Israel Eyes Maiden F-15SE Tests

Procurement Wars as Lockheed Boeing Face Off

If you follow the Hashmonean you already know about the saga playing out to vie the Israeli skies.

In one corner, the largest procurement defense contract in US history known as the JSF – The fighter of the future addled by teething problems and ballooning budgets. In the other, the veritable air to air superiority fighter of the 20th Century – The F-15. Now updated with new aerodynamics, enclosed weapon bays, modern avionics, Air to Air radar absorbing coatings, and sporting a new moniker the F-15SE (Silent Eagle).

I have followed the saga closely..

JSF F35 Lightning II key procurement factors for Israel remain:

Economics, Time Frames, and Access. We already know the JSF, who’s costs have quadrupled for Israeli procurement (150 Million+) cannot be bought in numbers originally envisioned. We already know that deliveries will not meet critical threats and our need for long range interdiction soon. We already know that Israel & the Pentagon are in a long running battle regarding access to key F-35 JSF electronic systems & components. Initial squadron deliveries of vanilla JSFs themselves to Israel are no longer envisioned before 2016-2018, if then.

F-15 - We already know that Israel has maintained 100 – 0 kill ratios flying the eagle. We already know we can fly them with one wing blown clear off. We already know that Israel has previously procured Eagles with custom requirements & Israeli avionics in the F-15I RAAM (Thunder), and we have a long term training, supply and maintenance regiment in place.

Video on An Israeli F-15 flying with one wing..

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Escalation.

What has changed? The Eagle has taken flight. Boeing, having lost the initial X-Plane prototype race to Lockheed which produced the F35, now seeks a little sweet revenge. Key words? Aggressive flight testing schedule.

The Israel Air Force closely followed the maiden flight of the F-15 Silent Eagle, which took to the skies over the weekend in the US. Debate continued within the Defense Ministry over whether it should buy the aircraft in the face of expected additional delays in the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The flight took place over St. Louis, headquarters of the plane’s developer, Boeing Co.

During the 80-minute flight, the plane, called the F-15E1, opened and closed its left-side conformal weapons bay, which contained an AIM-120 Instrumented Test Vehicle (ITV) missile that was not launched.

“The Silent Eagle demonstration flight validated our initial engineering design approach,” said Boeing F-15 Development Programs Director Brad Jones. “Our intent was to verify all systems are operational in a flight environment. This flawless flight allows us to move into the next phase. In the next couple of weeks, we will ferry F-15E1 to the test range and launch an AIM- 120.” [...]

Crunch Time -  We will not be getting the F-35 JSF access we want.

Last month it was reported that a critical factor for Israel regarding the JSF continued to lay with access. The Obama administration & Israel like to say loud and proud that defense ties are phenomenal. But Israelis are sharp tacks. We mere mortals suspect that JDAMs, Fuel, ordnance and other goodies were withheld when Obama came into office as pressure tactics on the Netanyahu govt.

Should future conflict erupt with a 3rd party under a future less friendly administration.. We may be stuck without access to key electronic systems, replacement parts and the JSF computer core – Woohoo! Grounding one of the most lethal air forces in the world while we wait for C-5 Galaxies to disgorge components coming from the USA..

Why is it likely we won’t we be getting full access? Because this tidbit made the news last week regarding ongoing JSF negotiations..

Israel wants the Obama administration and Lockheed-Martin Company (NYSE: LMT) to set up a US-run logistics and maintenance center for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet in the Negev, reports “Defense News”, quoting US and Israeli government and industry sources. Lockheed-Martin is the chief contractor for the F-35, which is due to become the next-generation mainstay of the Israel Air Force.

The request is basically a new Israeli condition to Israel’s commitment to procure the expensive planes.

“Defense News” says that Israeli officials consider construction of a large logistics center to be a critical factor for independent operational capabilities, especially since airports and seaports are liable to be targets of rocket and missile attacks in a war.

You know it baby! They call it just in time delivery today.  Stock & lock them computer cores, systems, replacements and all the JSF goodies right here in the holy land. That way when the going gets tough.. The tough don’t all of a sudden decide to get all political on us.

Fighter of the future or old faithful?

Perhaps both. Or maybe simply the aerial wars continue – If you’ve ever pulled a few Gs in a 100 million dollar fighter plane you already know, brinkmanship is all part of the dogfight. A decision is expected in Israel by fall.

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