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Israel to choose between risking future on single jet and portfolio

Saturday, January 7, 2017 16:01
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Dr. Aaron Lerner – IMRA: Let’s set aside that the underlying logic for the
F-35 hinges on the hope that somehow the technology ALREADY DEVELOPED for
detecting the “stealth” F-35 won’t be applied in the interception systems of
our enemies for decades to come. Can Israel afford the possibility that at
some time in the future its ENTIRE fleet is GROUNDED because of a problem
discovered in the F-35? Such a global event would be anything but secret.]

Israel must choose: F-35 or F-15
5 Jan, 2017 8:13

The first two F-35 Adir Stealth warplanes delivered a month ago to the
Israeli air force have already performed astonishingly in a few flights in
Israeli skies. Their advanced systems are being studied by the pilots and
technical crews ahead of the arrival of 38 more F-35s in the coming years.
The air force, Ministry of Defense, and US arms companies are now preparing
for the next deal, which is also projected to total several billion dollars.

The type of planes to be procured may be decided during the coming year, or
during the following year at the latest. The selection will be either an
improved version of the Boeing F-15 or a special model of the F-35, Lockheed
Martin’s flagship plane.

If Israel again selects the Stealth fighter, it will have a third squadron
of this 5G aircraft. These planes will probably have capabilities lacking in
the F-35s already ordered by Israel from Lockheed Martin: the ability to
take off on a runway of only several hundred meters and to land vertically,
provided that their fuel tanks do not have much fuel and the planes are not
carrying munitions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes this model, which will enable the
air force to operate even under one of Israel’s nightmare scenarios, in
which air force bases are bombarded by hundreds of rockets sowing
destruction on the runways and seriously affecting the ability of warplanes
to take off from them.

On the other hand, Boeing is already preparing to go after the billions of
dollars that Israel will spend on its new airplane deal. They are offering
the air force a new advanced model of the F-15, a twin-engine warplane that
the Israeli air force has been using for 40 years.

The new F-15 model purports to make up for its lack of stealth capability
with the ability to carry large quantities of various types of munitions,
advanced radar, and many other improvements on the earlier models produced
in recent decades. Boeing believes that this will make the new F-15 a
terrifying flying war machine that will round off several corners for the
Israeli air force. At least in their stealth configuration, the F-35s are
limited in the weapons they can carry, because the bombs and missiles they
carry are stored in internal munitions boxes in order to lower their radar
signature. In the coming years, at least, the types of weapons that the new
Stealth fighter can carry are also limited. Since the Boeing F-15 does not
purport to be a stealth aircraft, Boeing has added additional points under
the plane’s wings for carrying more bombs and missiles.

A small and exclusive club

The F-35s that Israel has procured, which make the Israeli air force a
member of a small and exclusive club of 5G plane operators, are terribly
expensive: a single plane costs $110 million. If Israel decides to buy a
third squadron of 25 more planes, it may choose the F-35 B model, which
costs even more than the A model it has already procured.

Lockheed-Martin, however, has promised Israel a lower price for the F-35 if
it decides to buy more of the planes. Lockheed believes that in this
situation, the per-plane price will fall to $85 million. It is unclear
whether or not this price refers to the B model.

Boeing’s new F-15 is likely to be substantially more expensive, with an
estimated price of $110-130 million per plane. The reasons for this include
the future closing of the production line for the veteran plane, expected in
several years, which will make the spare parts and accompanying systems for
it more expensive, and the fact that it is a twin-engine aircraft.

All of these figures are known to the Israeli air force and the Ministry of
Defense Procurement and Production Directorate, which will be responsible
for the future procurement as soon as the type of aircraft to be procured is
decided. In any case, funding for the deal will come from US defense aid,
slated to total $38 billion over the coming decade.

“In the end, it’s all a matter of the right mix,” a senior air force officer
told “Globes.” “There are considerations of operational, organizational, and
technical elements, and the question always arises of whether it’s right to
put all of your eggs in one basket. We have already gotten a foothold in the
Adir universe. We bought two planes, and now we’re looking ahead to the next
deal. Right now, we’re still hesitating and considering which aircraft will
be more effective from the perspective of 15 years from now. I think that
the answer is both of them. The F-35 is a great 5G aircraft, while the F-15
offered to us will be 4.5G, but can carry far more munitions, and we already
have ready infrastructure suitable for it. As I said, no decision has been
made yet in the matter.”

In need of an urgent upgrade

Most of the air force’s F-15s are out of date. Israel began using this
plane, call the Falcon, in the second half of the 1970s. The air force also
has a more modern and advanced squadron of F-15s, called Ra’am (Thunder).

Whether the coming deal is for F-35s or improved F-15s, the air force is
talking about an urgent need for a general upgrade of its warplanes. “Our
warplanes are getting old,” a senior officer warns. “In the 1960s, for
example, we bought 200 warplanes. In 2000-2010, we bought only 100 warplanes
(F-16Is, called Soufa (Storm), Y.A.). In 2010-2020, we’re buying just 19
F-35s, with the rest coming only in the succeeding decade. Our air force is
using its warplanes longer than the US, and actually longer than any other
air force in the world. This is creating situations in which we’re the first
to be exposed to problems like cracks in the body of the plane, while there
is no actual knowledge or experience from other air forces about how to
handle this.”

Over the past decade, the air force has been systematically devoting more
and more of its activity to its array of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The air force’s plans speak of an expansion of the UAVs’ capabilities, but
not to the extent that they can replace manned aircraft. “The air force will
need a new battle squadron every five years, and right now, it needs another
two or three squadrons,” says a senior officer. “There is a minimum number
of warplanes that we simply don’t want to fall short of.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News – -
on January 4, 2017


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