Controversy has erupted within the Israeli defence establishment over a new navy proposal to acquire a large landing craft/aircraft carrier type of ship configured for joint long-range operations. The Israeli navy plan marks a total shift from the service's earlier intention to purchase new corvettes equipped with Aegis air defence radars.

The navy's new plan calls for the construction of a vessel with a displacement of around 13,000t, capable of carrying a squadron of attack helicopters and unmanned air vehicles. Additional loads for the ship would include ground troops and armoured vehicles.

However, the navy's proposed ship is also planned to be able to deploy the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter. The Israeli air force has expressed its intention to purchase the conventional take-off and landing F-35A, with Israel a security co-operation participant in the system development and demonstration phase of the JSF project. The country has not previously shown interest in the STOVL version of the aircraft.

The Israeli navy's expeditionary plan is based on an assumption that future combat scenarios will involve operations against so-called "second tier" countries, such as Iran. Israel's air force already operates extended-range strike aircraft and inflight refuelling tankers for operations beyond its national borders.

The command of the Israeli Defence Forces is scheduled to decide by the end of next month on several of its major defence procurement programmes, including which type of new ships should be acquired for the navy.



Source: Flight International