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Lightning Strike: Huge F-35 Deal Will mean JSF Lands in Israel

Cost Offsets

The JSF saga continues, but it is nearing its end.

We may not be gaining access to critical JSF components, but the tough to swallow price tag may now be muted according to Israeli sources. In the form of a 4 billion dollar manufacturing cost offset which will somewhat lessen the economic sting of a JSF costing twice as much as an F15 latest gen Boeing fighter..

Israeli defense companies have scored one of the biggest deals in the industry’s history: They will be making about $4 billion worth of parts for the next generation of American fighter jets, industry sources told TheMarker.

While no official announcement has been made, Israeli defense officials have been talking with the U.S. defense companies involved in the development and production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. [...]

It is a testament to how badly Israel, the US & Lockheed want to make this whole thing work. After the JSF balloon in cost, both the USA & Lockheed need orders for the jet badly. Israel needs help paying for it.

Prestige

The IAF is indeed a huge win in the jet fighter realm.. The Israeli airforce is world renowned and other countries pay close attention to Israeli procurement. Israel would be the 1st original non official partner on board buying the jet. A huge prestige win for Lockheed & a needed vote of confidence in the JSF.

We can only go with 19 instead of 75 for now, but rest assured a procurement win of 20 or so from Israel will eventually mean a few hundred JSFs sold to other countries down the road. Something the Pentagon & both Lockheed will need to bring down the cost of the jet for US use via mass export / increased production over the next two decades.

F-35 Lightning II / JSF

A large local manufacturing win in Israel will lighten the JSF costs significantly. Please Israel, Lockheed and the US Congress - Which is committed to Israel's security & having us fly the latest US fighter. If these design wins are confirmed, the JSF will be landing in Israel soon to Boeing's F-15 displeasure. (Photo courtesy USAF)

Nothing is official, but if Israel can lend abiltiy, expertise & benefit from the gigantic JSF economy of the future it is almost a certainty that the JSF will have a trump card the F-15 cannot compete with on price alone.

There are other factors at play between the two jets competing over Israeli airspace, but the JSF cost balloon was a substantial & critical one.

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.

Special Ops: Israel Moving Forward With Super Hercules C-130j

Long Range Infiltrators

A critical component of Israel’s long term TEFEN procurement program in the air involves what most would consider a fairly unglamorous transport upgrade. The Hercules class transports are more often than not looked upon as standard equipment and troop movers, a role the Hercules has been playing in numerous air forces for decades now.

Israel’s original SuperHercules C-130j procurement deal initially started in 2008, when the US Congress was notified by the Pentagon of an impending sale for up to 9 specially designed transports. Back in 2008 deliveries were expected to begin around the 2012 time frame. Haaretz now reports that there is (unconfirmed) movement this week on the transport deal – with Defense Minister Ehud Barak & PM Netanyahu having met with US defense officials..

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week absorbing the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel’s defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.

According to the deal, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts, designed by Lockheed Martin, is worth roughly a quarter billion dollars. Each aircraft costs $70 million. The aircrafts were manufactured specifically for Israeli needs, and include a large number of systems produced by Israel’s defense industry [...]

C-130j Hotrods

My understanding of these matters is that the Hercs would cost somewhat more, in the 100 million range mostly due to some serious upgrades above the Super Hercules’ already impressive renewed electrical & systems roster. The total package with optional aircraft over the multi-year deal was estimated to possibly reach 1.9 Billion dollars if all options were exercised.

Word was that we had asked Lockheed to equip the new Israeli transports with unique in flight air refueling capability to ‘extend their operational range’. This beyond the substantial modifications Israel has requested electronically to mate the transports with Israeli systems and electronic counter measures. These initial Hercs are clearly of the Special Operations variety designed for deep insertion & support roles for both men & matériel.

c130j_israel

The US has been active in Israel with its own C-130js as well. This US transport photo is courtesy of the USAF - Seen at Israel's southern IAF superbase Nevatim in Dec. 09. The location where Americans man the X-Band Ballistic Missile Defense Radar positioned in Israel by our good friend G.W Bush.

Drop & Mop

Israel has a long history of unique Hercules operational roles, the most famous being the Entebbe hostage rescue which saw Israel insert special forces all the way into Africa while taking over an international airport. If these reports are true, Israeli pressure to get this pre-Obama administration deal on track & moving would be a major coup and signal some cooperation between the IDF & Pentagon, as arms sales to Israel from the US have apparently been quite frozen on almost every level since Obama took office. Including helicopters, heavy ordinance JDAM bombs, electronics & reserve supplies of jet fuel for war contingencies.

Congress pledges support

Despite White House humiliation & Israeli arm twisting of late there is a tidal wave of congressional support to keep Israel on the cutting edge militarily, and supply us with assistance pledges built into the US Israel alliance. Just this week Nita Lowey, the powerful chairwoman of the US House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations who oversees the military & aid packages for Israel re-iterated solidly that whatever rifts may develop with the White House, the military aid would still be forthcoming..

“There is no question in my mind that the 10-year memorandum of understanding is solid,” Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the US House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said of the decade-long US aid plan under which $3 billion will be going to Israel this year. “There is strong bipartisan support for Israel in the Congress that will not falter.”

She said that continuing support is also in place when it comes to the US commitment to Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its Arab neighbors and other forms of military coordination.

“The military cooperation, the intelligence cooperation, the focus on Iran, is solid and strengthens every year,” said Lowey, who also sits on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees. [...]

With so much pressure coming out of the Obama admin these days, these displays of support & friendship are heartening to say the least. We require our ally’s help, SuperHercs & all.

Confirmation: Senior IAF Officers Question JSF Plans

Deja Vu

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..

In September 09 I wrote this..

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?

The F35ii Lightning.. No telling when it will actually strike though.

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.

Confirmation

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.”

Ya think?

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!

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.

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.

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