June 27, 2006 (by Jeff Hollenbeck) - Recently, Israeli Air Force chief procurement officer Brigadier-General Ze'ev Snir announced that Israel intends to purchase 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of at least $5 Billion over several years.
With the end of Israel
's contract to purchase 102 F-16I "Sufa" fighter jets coming to a close in the near future, Israel is looking to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to meet its needs in the coming years. Israel plans to purchase the F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL
) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter which is the same version which the United States Air Force plans to purchase. The other available versions of the F-35 are the Short Take Off Vertical Landing (STOVL
) and a version designed to be operated from aircraft carriers equipped with steam catapults and arresting gear such as the U.S. Navy's supercarriers.
So far, the biggest hurtle to be cleared in the Israeli F-35 deal is the issue of access to the source code for the F-35's computers. That access is needed to integrate new equipment and armament into the jet which is definitely not a "plug and play" system, nor are drivers available for free download. If access is not granted, the end user of the jet would have to work with Lockheed and other U.S. based companies to integrate anything new into the jet.
General Snir is not concerned about the lack of access, noting that Israel was only given access to the F-16 and F-15 computer source code after development was completed and that it has already been agreed that IAF F-35 aircraft would include Isreali communications, electronic counter measures, and compatibility with missiles made by Rafael Armament Development. Access to the F-35 source code was only recently given to Great Britain which is not only one of the United States' strongest allies, but also has over $2 Billion invested in the project compared to $35 Million invested by Israel.