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Israel reports 'some progress' in JSF talks

Fresh talks between US and Israeli teams about the planned sale of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Israeli air force have resulted in some progress being made.

A senior Israeli air force source says that "there is a growing understanding" on the US side with regard to some of Israel's essential demands.

The source points to the possible integration of an Israeli-made electronic warfare pod into the F-35's EW suite. The USA has, however, refused an Israeli demand to allow it to equip its F-35s with an all-domestic EW system.

"The proposed combination of the internal EW suite and the Israeli pod will be according to the [required] mission," the source says.

Another issue where progress was made is concerned with an Israeli demand to get access to some parameters of the stealth fighter that affect its airworthiness. "We submitted a list, and I think that there is a will to allow us to have the needed access," says the source.

The US team wants to sign a letter of agreement as soon as possible, but Israel says it needs more time before this milestone can be achieved. The number of F-35s to be included in the initial deal will be determined only when all the disagreements have been solved.

Formally there is no official Israeli commitment to purchase the F-35, but the air force has made it clear that it needs the aircraft.

A final decision will be made by the Israeli government after the nation's defence minister has received the full details of the proposed deal and assessed its implications on the overall defence budget.

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