More F-35s = less tanks and APCs – the IDF’s dilemma

This classic either-or situation will have to be answered soon: another 20 Lockheed Martin F-35′s for the Israeli air force (IAF), or the termination of the Merkava-4 main battle tank and Namer heavy armored personnel carrier.

The general staff of the Israeli defence forces (IDF) will have to make this decision while tension about a possible Israeli operation against the Iranian nuclear weapons programme reaches a climax.

The IAF has an order for 20 F-35s, but the service wants another squadron.

With delivery dates pushed to 2018, growing costs and reports of limited capabilities, the question mark hanging above the planned new contract has become bigger.

The delays in the F-35 programme were not fully taken into account when the Israeli government approved the $2.75 billion for 20 F-35s. Now it is clear that if a second squadron is purchased, the IDF will have to forget about increasing its Merkava and Namer fleets.

These two armored platforms are still very important in any future war scenario in the Middle East.

The first 20 F-35s will be delivered when they are ready – the question is whether the IAF will get automatic approval to purchase additional aircraft.

Some experts say that once the first squadron is operational, the need for a second is obvious. Others claim that one squadron is enough for the special missions stealth fighters are made for.

This is the dilemma the IDF’s generals face – and a decision will have to be made soon.

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