Israel's defence ministry is trying to persuade the US administration to allow its air force to install more Israeli-developed systems in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters that it plans to field from 2014. The result of the discussions will be a major factor in determining the number of aircraft purchased.
The Israeli defence ministry confirms that the technology issue was discussed during an early September visit to Washington by its director general Pinhas Buchris, but declines to elaborate. However, one Israeli defence source notes: "We made it clear that our F-35 should be different and more capable for our future combat scenarios."
Israel's demands focus on the F-35's internally carried munitions and their interface with the aircraft, and on some electronic systems described as "penetration enablers".
During May, Israel issued a formal letter of request for the JSF, seeking 25 basic US Air Force-configured conventional take-off and landing F-35As, plus an option for another 50. Lockheed sources say the latter number could include some B-model short take-off and vertical landing fighters.
Although Israel is not a partner in the JSF programme's current system development and demonstration phase, its domestic defence industry is already working on several systems for the aircraft, including Israel Military Industries working on internally carried high impact bombs. Cyclone Aviation is also designing under-wing fuel tanks to increase the fighter's combat radius, while Israel Aerospace Industries is offering a conformal fuel tank design.
Israeli sources say the defence ministry will finalise a list of locally developed systems before submitting a formal request for proposals on the aircraft in 2009.