The war over additional F-35s

The all-time showdown is set to take place in the general staff of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

 

The issue on the table in the sound proof room in the IDF headquarters in Tel-Aviv will be whether to approve the purchase of another 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters.

 

This is in addition to the 20 that are on order, with deliveries expected in 2017.

The first 20 Joint Strike Fighters were ordered in October 2010, at a cost of $2.75bn.

 

When Israel signed the first contract it included the option for another 55 F-35s.

 

This time I hope the discussion will be more serious and focus on the main question – does Israel need more F-35s and what will be kept off the IDF’s shopping list if the answer is positive?

 

The generals in green (army) and white (navy) are ready for war, no less. They know that their shopping list will be buried very deep if the second batch of F-35s is purchased.

 

What’s at stake? On the ground, more F-35s means fewer Merkava 4 main battle tanks, fewer Namer heavy personnel carriers based on this tank, and fewer precise rockets.

 

At sea the impact will be even greater. The Israeli navy urgently needs new advanced ships to bolster the surface force now mainly based on Saar-5 missile corvettes.

 

These are needed especially now, to defend the huge gas and oil undersea reservoirs discovered in the Mediterranean off the Israeli shore.

 

So the showdown will be a real one this time, as the army and the navy know that its result will determine their major procurement plans for the next 10 years.

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