Last week I was complaining about the JSF fighter, and asking if we had ‘screwed the pooch’ on the planned purchase due to the fighters legendary problems.
JPOST now confirms that senior Israeli Air force officers are re-thinking the viability of our JSF plans due to the delays, and considering more F-15s as a more logical solution. That’s pretty much what I figured in last week’s post, and many others. Last week wasn’t the 1st time I’ve questioned this particular procurement piece..
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..
What’s a few Billion between friends?
Now we are learning the plane will cost over 135 Million in America, for US purposes.. and that’s before that number has frozen.
If you tack on Israeli requirements (still unresolved after 3 years of negotiation) we best figure minimum 150 Million, probably much closer to 200 Million. Hello! TOTALLY UNPROCURABLE for us in numbers we envisioned. We could buy twice as many F15s, which as JPOST says - are ready to get all the way to Iran.. loaded to the hilt.
In May 2009 I wrote the following while evaluating the new Boeing F15-SE as a contender to replace our JSF order..
25 additional F15-SEs could dovetail nicely into the established maintenance, training and equipment pipeline more quickly & cheaply. [...] 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.
Earlier in May when the new F-15 was unveiled I was beefing about the JSF costs in a familiar refrain, comparing it to an equivalent F15 purchase instead..
In the long run the costs savings for Israel may be substantial, in training, maintenance, and upgrades to existing F-15 fleets.
I’m therefore less than shocked to read the excellent Yaakov Katz at JPOST pen the following yesterday..
Major delays in the production of the fifth-generation stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will likely lead to the postponement of Israel’s procurement plans, which initially set the signing of a contract by the end of March.
One top IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the Defense Ministry was unlikely to sign a letter of agreement (LOA) with the Pentagon before the end of 2010. “Everything now appears to be pushed off by at least a year,” the senior officer said.
On Sunday night, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Washington for talks with top Pentagon officials. Ashkenazi plans to speak with his American counterpart, Adm. Michael Mullen, and other Pentagon officials about the delays in the production of the JSF and how it will affect the IDF. [...]
Nor does it surprise
That such a tale would continue along these lines..
Israel had planned to order a first squadron of 25 jets within the coming months and to procure another 50 by the end of the decade. Due to the delays, some IAF officers are calling for a review of the procurement plans and to consider the possible purchase of additional F-15Is made by Boeing Company. Israel already has a squadron of F-15Is that are capable of carrying massive amounts of weaponry and flying long distances, including to Iran.
“There is some thought in this direction,” a top IAF source said recently. “Based on the development requirements, the F-35 is supposed to be a more advanced plane primarily since it is stealth, but delays in the production have led to new thinking within the IAF.”
This whole contract has been bungled on every level. Back in America the plane is not ready, its costs have literally quadrupled from initial estimates. The Pentagon started playing games with Israel that are yet to be resolved, not allowing Israel access to key computers or the ability to install IAF electronics, weapons & systems. That really added insult to wallet injury. It’s a cluster fark A to Z thus far from every end.
It’s not only Israel either, our American friends & allies (Well if you consider the Brits allies lol) are taking it on the jaw with this weapons system too. Big mess, Lockheed we love you.. But what the hell is going on over there!?
Friends in high places
Another point of interest is the fact that our guys are talking F15I instead of F15SE. Could it be because we already know the Obama administration won’t sell us the new F15SE without making us jump through flaming hoops? Can’t be, American Jewish Democrats assure us this is the friendliest US administration EVAH!
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.
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.
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.