The Israeli government has tentatively approved
the purchase of 20 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
The aircraft are expected to be delivered
between 2015 to 2017. Israeli concern of Iran potentially developing a
nuclear weapon suggests that the F-35s would not be used for any
preventive action, but rather to bolster the country's deterrence.
The stealth fighter, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, "will afford Israel
continued air superiority and maintain the technological edge in our
region," the statement quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as
saying. Israel plans to buy initially 20 planes, estimating the total
price tag at $2.75 billion, to be covered by an annual U.S. defense grant
of $3 billion. Final approval of the deal could be given by the end of
September by a panel of Israeli government ministers.
Israel would be the first foreign country
to sign an agreement to buy the F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, outside the
eight international partners that have helped to develop the plane.
The deal has been in negotiations since September 2008, when the Pentagon
first approved the sale of 25 fighters with an option for more in the
The F-35 is designed to avoid detection
by radar and could play a role in any Israeli effort to knock out what it
regards as the threat to its existence posed by Iran's nuclear program.
Tehran denies Western and Israeli allegations that it is trying to produce
Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Shani said incorporation of Israeli
technologies into the F-35 had played a role in Barak's decision to buy
the aircraft. However, the F-35 does not provide an immediate answer to
this threats: The first squadron will only be in operation in 2017, so if
Israel decides in the next few years that the Iranian nuclear program
needs to be addressed immediately, it will have to do so without the F-35.
It will have to find a way to bypass Iran's air defense without the
stealth jet. Lets not even mention if the Iranians get S-300 units which
will neuter the F35 anyway. The threat to supply these is like a
gift that keeps on giving when it comes to the Russians.
Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle
East's sole nuclear arsenal had also considered a cheaper option -- the
purchase of a modified version of Boeing's F-15 fighter, an aircraft it