The Israeli air force has completed a review of its design requirements for a national variant of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, with Tel Aviv expecting to make a decision to buy up to 100 of the US aircraft under a multi-year procurement.
Details of the air force's unique requirements remain classified, but are known to include a locally built electronic-warfare suite and a new internally carried bomb to be developed by Israel Military Industries.
The general staff of the Israeli defence forces will soon decide how many F-35s will be purchased and establish a preferred delivery schedule. "We want this aircraft as soon as possible," says a senior air force source.
Other sources say Israel plans to sign a letter of agreement in 2009, with deliveries to start in late 2013 or 2014. Its initial order is expected to be for 25 aircraft, plus 25 options. However, with the Israeli-configured aircraft likely to have a higher price tag, the issue will be evaluated before a production contract is signed in 2010.
Israel joined the JSF programme in February 2002 as a so-called Security Cooperation Participant.
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