Tag Archives: F-35

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!

Stalwart Allies: Obama Admin Has Frozen Arms Sales; No More Apache Longbows for Israel?

‘Words must mean something..’

The luster is off, many of my more elite fellow bloggers on US / Israeli relations are coming to grips with the unfriendly atmosphere now prevailing in what President Obama just yesterday termed a ‘stalwart alliance’ between Israel & the US. Blah blah blah, just words. This President is a talker all right, on the topic of whether or not he’s a doer however it is becoming ever more clear that he reserves action only for Israel, everyone else gets a free pass.

Obama Strikes Again – Requests for replacement choppers in limbo

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has blocked Israel’s request for advanced U.S.-origin attack helicopters.

Government sources said the administration has held up Israel’s request for the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The sources said the request was undergoing an interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. [...]

Yeah, we know. Drastically reduced cooperation, ignoring existential threats, reaching out to America’s enemies at the expense of her allies. All part of the pressure gambit to wring concessions out of Israel to pay off the Muslim outreach program, which so far appears to be the only thing (other than spending trillions of dollars of debt) the President seems to actually care about.

JSF / F15SE / Apache Longbow – What’s next?

IDF Apaches in formation

IDF Apaches in formation

The list of off limits hardware is growing, now the Apache Longbows have been added despite the fact Israel already flies them. Since most of the F35 JSF is already off limits to us, the new Boeing F15SE has been sought as a possible option by Israel  – But that is also seemingly not in the cards. The F15SE was designed by Boeing specifically for export because it has no slot in US defense plans since its missions are already covered by other platforms, it is an upgrade path for international customers flying Eagles. Which makes statements by the Administration to the effect that the F15SE is not cleared for ‘foreign military sales’ curious indeed..

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has imposed obstacles on Israeli efforts to procure U.S.-origin fighter-jets.

Administration sources said the White House has drafted measures that could prevent Israel and other non-NATO allies from procuring U.S. fighter-jets, including the F-35. They said the administration would require that Israel obtain special permission from the Defense Department and State Department to acquire the Joint Strike Fighter. The administration has also been resisting Israeli requests for technical data on the new F-15SE fighter-jet. [...]

The sources said the State Department has been delaying Israeli requests for pre-export licenses required for an examination of the new generation F-15.

The sources said the administration has not approved the new F-15 for the Foreign Military Sales program. They said this could prevent Israel from using U.S. military aid to purchase the aircraft from Boeing. “This is a legal issue,” a source said. “The F-15SE might not qualify for FMS.”

Stalwart allies. We are not even allowed to evaluate the Boeing fighter! Boeing must be thrilled with the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts so far since the Apaches & F-15s are part of the company’s stable of military hardware. I’m still wrestling with how the math for this works but I’m guessing Robert Gibbs will soon tell us that halting all these sales from Boeing to Israel is good for the company’s bottom line in the recession and will ‘create jobs’.

The noose is around Israel’s neck and is tightening while Obama courts and appeases his one true love, the Arabs & the Palestinians and every dictator, socialist, and isolated rogue regime on the planet. This is change all right, everything else is ‘just words’.

Thanks to Ace, Moe Lane and others for the links – more at the memeo.

Frozen Out: Israel Looking to Drop F-35 tender, buy Advanced F15-SE

Non Access to Advanced F35 Systems

I wrote about the cost spiral and the possibility of the IAF looking elsewhere previously, as I’ve followed the F-35 story here at the Hashmonean, a soaring price tag now double initial estimates and more critically the lack of willingness for Israel to customize the aircraft seems to spell doom for our initial F-35 / JSF purchase.

No F-22, no F-35

For the 1st time in who knows how long Israel will not field the USA’s most advanced generation of fighters. It looks like a stunning development for Lockheed, and a big win for Boeing. Lockheed stands to lose perhaps upward of 15 to 20 BILLION dollars on the sales. Sadly, relations between the US & Israel appear to be deteriorating..

(JPOST) A refusal by the United States to allow Israel to repair computer systems in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is at the heart of disagreements between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon that have been holding up an official Israeli order for the fifth-generation fighter jet.

Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that talks between the Israeli defense delegation in Washington and the Pentagon have picked up speed in recent weeks but have yet to result in agreement due to the US’s refusal to grant Israel access to the plane’s internal computer mainframe. [...]

In the long run the costs savings for Israel may be substantial, in training, maintenance, and upgrades to existing F-15 fleets. Nonetheless this would be a significant blow to American aviation prestige, the IAF is considered an air-force elite. With Lockheed’s latest & greatest planes not on Israeli tarmacs, it is unfortunate. The F-22 line has been shut down, only 187 planes produced. The F-35 a mixed international bag / consortium has lost a lot of luster of late, fairly shocking that countries like Turkey are in the program and Israel will not even fly the fighter it seems..

The F-15 SE / Stealth

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled on March 17th, 2009

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled on March 17th, 2009

Unveiled in late March by Boeing, the new plane features new aerodynamics to improve radar signature, enclosed bomb & weapons bays, and new advanced coatings. Also updated are avionics, systems & displays, fly by wire systems etc. A new breed for what is the most successful fighter in flight today, with the IAF having flown the Eagle for over 20 years with zero losses and a devastating kill ratio.

Clearly, this is not as stealthy as an F-35.. However, the F-35 when armed with external stores / weapons loses a lot of its stealth capabilities which are not nearly as advanced as the F-22′s from the get go.

Early Delivery: TEFEN Takes Off with 75 Nextgen JSF F-35s for Israel (Updated)

1st In: Leading off what will surely be a long list of foreign purchase orders Israel tenders 25 Stealth JSFs (Updated Below)

Despite the JSF’s numerous next generation capabilities including stealth technologies, you could hear this F-35 order coming from a mile away. Well, 3 years at least.. That’s how long Israel has been talking about acquiring the new fighter about to roll off assembly lines. Another major chunk of the TEFEN procurement plan in the air has been filled. 25 conventional JSF fighters (A mode) with deliveries starting in 2014, and an option for 50 more in the form of VTOL versions of the multi-role fighter.

The JSF is a fine next generation platform, but this deal 3 years in the making, and with another 4 years in the waiting - comes less than 3 months after Israel’s smarting rejection for the American bird of prey, the F-22 Raptor.  America already has 100 Raptors with US forces, new ones rolling off assembly lines would have been able to help Israel now, as opposed to in 2014.

Critical detail: Israeli electronics

The 1st JSF under construction at Lockheed

The 1st JSF under construction at Lockheed

Being amongst the first to receive the new fighter is certainly a score, but the back story on the remaining issue, the ability to install IAF electronics at the factory is the real nail bitter. The IAF routinely replaces large electronic components in its fighters as part of customization, radars sensors, displays etc. One of the prime benefits is the ability to work with other Israeli systems like armaments, fuel pods, air to air missiles which are also developed by Israel, as well as keeping the planes as superior as possible.

The F-16I SUFA, and F-15I Raam are prime examples of this customization, benefiting from Israeli options installed directly during manufacturing which is much cheaper than buying a fully decked plane and then replacing its systems – for obvious reasons. This important detail is still outstanding in the JSF talks

[...] Israel said it plans to buy a fleet of F-35s as it upgrades its military technology. The first batch of 25 would be the variant of F-35 designed for conventional take off from military airfields, but the later 50 could include a version that can land and take off vertically, similar to a helicopter.

If approved by Congress in the next 30 days, Israel will likely sign an official contract with the US Air Force in the coming months and begin receiving the aircraft in 2014.

While news of the Pentagon approval was positively received in the Defense Ministry, officials said it was still too early to celebrate since Israel has yet to receive final Pentagon approval to allow the IAF to install Israeli-made systems in the plane.

The result of the negotiations will be a determining factor in the number of aircraft Israel decides to purchase.

The technology issue was discussed last week between the IAF and a team of US military officers from the JSF Program who were in Israel. It also was at the focus of talks Defense Ministry Director-General Pinhas Buchris held in Washington earlier this month.

Israeli demands include installing an advanced radar and conformal fuel tank design for long-range missions made by Israel Aerospace Industries, as well as other electronic and weapons systems that could require changes to the configuration of the aircraft.

“We have unique needs and need to retain our superiority in the region,” a senior defense official explained. “To meet these needs we must to be able to install our own systems.”

If Israel exercises the vertical option, it would be the first time that the IAF obtains this capability, needed out of fear that Israeli airfields would be paralyzed by enemy missiles in a future conflict and planes would have difficulty taking off in a conventional fashion. [...]

It isn’t specified whether a global look at replacing systems is being discussed, or the added benefit of being able to do so at the configuration stage. I suspect the latter, as the issue is complicated by the many countries and entities involved in the JSF project and this is where details could become more difficult to resolve, holding up the process. New funding directly aimed at sorting through & overcoming export hurdles was allocated to the JSF recently, maybe this will move things along.

Next Gen decisions

Customization will involve access to much more of the plane’s systems than just buying the aircraft outright which raises security issues. If the IAF can’t customize the fighter the climbing costs of the JSF may be hard to justify. Estimated at 50-60+ million each, limitations on Israeli systems & arms may put the ongoing associated costs - together with a climbing cost per plane, right out of the IAF budget’s reach. Making the plane not cost effective enough to purchase in any real quantity as an early replacement for older aging F-16s, could mean Israel is 1st in, but not all in with the JSF currently.

Late model F16s can carry as much as a non stealthed F35 and at much cheaper prices. Stealth will benefit the opening rounds of conflict greatly despite its weight / carrying limitations, at which point a non stealthy F35 armed up with bombs becomes a very agile F-16 of sorts . A number of stealthy JSFs added to much cheaper (15-20 Million dollars) late model F16s, or a mix of less JSFs and the addition of a theoretical squadron of F-22 Raptors is conceivable, maybe even preferential when when considers how widely sold the ‘stock F35′ will eventually be.

For now, it seems like 25 is the magic number, and there are hundreds yet to be built to fill the US Air Force & partner countries requirements first. Custom, cheaper and as a result superior Israeli F35 variants will be crucial to the JSF becoming Israel’s own fighter of the future. The JSF is a full conflict ahead, in the mean time Israel has got other worries.


UPDATE: Lockheed responds, tries to bridge gaps

The consummate sales work with billions on the line, Lockheed responded in Tel Aviv yesterday to concerns such as mine above, regarding the plane being so likely oversold & exported, and thus an even more pressing need for IAF customization. (JPOST)

“No other countries in this part of the world are in discussions,” Tom Burbage, general manager of the F-35 program for Lockheed Martin, told reporters in Tel Aviv on Sunday. Asked about Saudi Arabia, Burbage said there were no talks between Lockheed Martin and Riyadh regarding the plane.

Burbage also revealed that $200 million worth of contracts had been signed with Israeli defense companies involved in the development of systems related to the Joint Strike Fighter. He said this would likely increase to half a billion dollars by the end of the program. [...]

This isn’t Kansas

I’m a big fan of Lockheed, and Being too, and Raytheon etc etc. So I say this with love, the winning of some contracts to provide elements of the fighter is nice, but they were won irrespective of export considerations. The JSF program wanted helmet mounted visual sights, so it got Israeli companies to provide the helmets because Israel developed & employed the tech. This does not negate the legitimate request to customize the aircraft for Israel’s needs. I say that because Mr. Burbage is likely too often dealing with the JSF partners & partner countries, for whom winning local development & procurement / manufacturing contracts has been the number one barter & pressure component since the program began.

They threaten funding, number of planes sought, some even threatened to drop the program entirely.. But we are not in Kansas here or the UK for that matter. Israel is not seeking a few contracts, and I’m sure Burbage just wants to smooth over the road in case the Pentagon decides to not allow Israeli participation in customizing the F35 for its export needs, judging by the whopping 80 million each price tag - I don’t blame him for stressing in general. But this is about security for Israel, not a few design wins.

It won’t be long before Egypt, the Saudis and a few smaller gulf emirates want JSFs. It is in everyone’s best interests for Lockheed to lobby for adapting the JSF, not against. So far, judging by the tone - It suggests the opposite from the program director, meaning Israel’s difficult dealings with the Pentagon will continue.