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Author Topic: The Middle East, F-35 and SA-20  (Read 4609 times)

Offline tigershark

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The Middle East, F-35 and SA-20
« on: February 21, 2009, 03:26:25 AM »
The Middle East, F-35 and SA-20
Posted by David A. Fulghum at 2/20/2009 1:39 PM CST

Selling the Lockheed Martin F-35 to Israel continues to be an uncertainty-plagued proposition with the most difficult funding and advanced capability issues still to be worked out between Tel Aviv and Washington. An American refusal to permit the installation of Israeli-made electronic surveillance and warfare systems in the Joint Strike Fighter may postpone the planned delivery of the fifth- generation stealth jet beyond the target date of 2014, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post.

In a recent interview with Aviation Week & Space Technology, Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, executive officer of the JSF program, said that Israel would not be allowed to put its own systems in the F-35. "They [Israel] are going to buy aircraft that have basically the same capability as all the others," Davis said. "They are trying to do requirements analyses for future missions. That [customization] is doable through software. It is not doable by Israelis sticking boxes in the airplane. [Elbit and Elta being involved] is not an option," he says.

Defense industries such as Rafael, Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta have protested the decision with Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Pinchas Buhris who last month made a lightning visit to Washington DC to discuss the issue with the Pentagon, The Jerusalem Post says. Israel has asked for the right to install its own electronic warfare, radar, munitions and command and control systems into the aircraft, citing special Israeli Air Force operational requirements for a more defined set of enemy threats and a much smaller aerial combat zone which multiplies the risk of surprise.

In the past, before announcing a decision to purchase the F-15I and the F-16I, the Israeli Defense Ministry first negotiated the installation of Israeli-made systems and then announced the sale. However in the case of the JSF, the US refused to conduct the negotiations with Israel until an announcement was made in Oct. that it would procure the plane.

A defense industry source familiar with the negotiations between Israel and the US said that the talks were "tough" but predicted that a deal would be reached in the coming months and that Israel would finally place an official order, The Jerusalem Post reported. Also in play is the new Obama administration which is expected to make an official decision on the issue in the coming months. Israel and the US are scheduled to sign a Letter of Agreement by the end of the year, Israeli officials say.

The Jerusalem Post reported that each plane would cost Israel over $100 million and not the estimated $50-$60 million that Lockheed Martin had initially claimed it would cost. The issue, as explained by Davis, is the difference between the year of purchase, the exchange rate, and flyaway cost versus the cost when training, spares and long-term sustainment and other issues that are subject to constant change.

An Israeli defense source told The Jerusalem Post said that the cost would make it very difficult for Israel to complete its initial plan to purchase 75 aircraft. He said that if not for operational considerations, the IDF would have preferred to wait several years before ordering the aircraft, once the price goes down.

The operations consideration is the sale of advanced surface to air missiles to Israel’s neighbors, in particular Syria and Iran. U.S. officials recently confirmed to Aviation Week that the SA-20 long-range and the SA-22 had been sold and SA-21 upgrades were a likely future upgrade.    Now the Russians appear to be backing away – temporarily -- from the $800 million SA-20 sale to Iran at least. Russia has put a hold on delivery of the SA-20, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant. The delivery of the systems would be delayed until the upcoming meeting between President Dmitry Medvedev and his US counterpart, Barack Obama.

Israel Radio quoted Moscow sources as saying that Russia also wanted to avoid ruining a $100 million drone purchase from Israel. Georgia, which has close ties to Israel’s aerospace industry, had used Elbit UAVs to monitor the Russian military buildup prior to the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia.



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