Israel's defence ministry is trying to beat the deadline for joining the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. The country's aerospace industry at the same time is concerned that it may lose the chance of participating.

The defence ministry has struggled to find the $200 million required to join the programme. Industry sources say the long-term effect of not joining will be "very harmful".

The sources say that even if the Israeli air force acquires F-35s - and it is expected to become one of the first export customers - any work gained by local industry would be "marginal" without joining the SDD phase.

The ministry says talks are being held with the US administration. "We understand the importance of joining this programme and we are discussing some degree of participation."

Meanwhile, Norway signed up to the SDD phase on 20 June, but the defence ministry says it has not selected the JSF and continues to "follow closely the development of alternative [fighter replacement] candidates".

Oslo says it will contribute up to NKr1,016 billion ($130 million) between 2002 and 2012, but it adds that the agreement "contains clauses giving Norway special rights to terminate the agreement if Norwegian industry is not afforded opportunities to participate." The defence ministry says if industrial collaboration is not of "satisfactory content, the government will assess how far participation in the programme should continue".

Source: Flight International