Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Israel to buy JSF

Tel Aviv - After nearly eight years of politically charged evaluation and negotiation, followed by acrimonious cost-benefit deliberations within the Israeli Cabinet, it is now official: The Israel Air Force will become the first non-partner nation to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Under a Pentagon-proposed Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) signed Oct. 7 by Israeli Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Shani, MoD Director-General, Israel will acquire the first 20 U.S. Air Force-configuration F-35Is, beginning in 2015

The entire package is priced at $2.75 billion and includes engines, simulators, spare parts and maintenance; all of which will be funded over several years through annual U.S. military assistance. In a prepared statement, MoD noted that flyaway cost for each of the 20 aircraft and their engines, once non-recurring development costs are subtracted, translates into $96 million per plane.

"This is an historic event; a new era for defensive and strategic might of Israel and the preservation of its military edge against challenges near and far for many years to come," Shani said at the Oct. 7 signing ceremony.

Shani said the acquisition was tremendously important to Israel's national economy, given commitments by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and other major industry partners to grant "billions of dollars" worth of related work to local industry.

The top MoD executive added that Israel intended to purchase additional JSF squadrons. "It's not for nothing that we have options for additional aircraft," Shani said.

He was referring to the Pentagon's original notification to Congress, as well as a side industrial participation agreement with Lockheed Martin, that allows for Israeli purchase of up to 75 of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft.

"We're very pleased with the government of Israel's decision to move forward with the [LOA] for the F-35," said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of F-35 program integration.

Lockheed noted that Israel will be the first foreign military sales customer for the F-35.

"This is another step in the longstanding relationship between Lockheed Martin and the nation of Israel. The Lightning II will strengthen Israel's national security posture both militarily and industrially."

U.S. participants in the event at MoD's Purchasing Mission in New York City were Heidi Grant, deputy Air Force undersecretary for international affairs; Vice Adm. David Venlet, JSF program executive officer; Karen Garvey from the Defense Security and Cooperation Agency and Ralph Heath of prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

Meanwhile in "News of the future": Iran's nuclear facilities blow up suddenly, seemingly by themselves.

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