Israel and the F-35 programme

Whenever the Israeli aerospace industry gets work related to the Lockheed Martin F-35, it’s a reminder of the stupid way Israel managed its involvement in the programme.

Because of basic stupidity, the Israeli ministry of defence did not join the F-35 programme as a full partner – as offered by the USA. After dragging its feet, Israel was instead accepted to the programme at the lowest possible status.

This, when for Israel the meaning of full partnership was not less than crucial. That was some years ago, but has resulted in a process that could have been avoided.

By investing the needed funds Israel could have become a full partner, but a short-sighted decision resulted in a different situation.

When understanding of this poor decision hit Israeli officials, they began an effort to correct the mistake. So far the results are limited, however.

Israel has not been active in designing some systems of the F-35, as the Israeli air force (IAF) planned. In this situation, what is left is getting some work as part of the industrial co-operation agreement between the USA and Israel.

The first contract went to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The company is preparing to manufacture 811 pairs of the stealth fighter’s wings.

A company facility will start production in 2015, and the wing pairs will go to F-35s destined for the IAF and the US Air Force.

Last week, another small step was taken. Cyclone – a subsidiary of Elbit Systems – has been approved as a manufacturer on the qualified products list for the F-35 programme.

The approval comes after a series of successful qualification tests carried out by Lockheed Martin, as part of a seven-year agreement with Cyclone.

Cyclone is to deliver 16 unique components and assemblies for the JSF programme.

Composite parts approved for the F-35 include various aeronautical carbon-epoxy laminates and honeycomb sandwich panels. Production of the components is part of the industrial co-operation agreement between Israel and the USA that was signed following the agreement of a contract to supply 19 F-35s to the IAF.

The two contracts are a drop in the ocean compared to what Israeli industry could have achieved – and a reminder of the poor decision made by the government.

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