Thursday, July 14, 2011

Aviation Week & Space Technology July 04, 2011

A major obstacle blocking Israel's purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been cleared, perhaps signaling that the U.S. is relaxing its hard-line approach to exporting JSF technologies that may be crucial to securing additional foreign sales. The U.S. has been cautious about sharing sensitive technologies for the stealth fighter, but existing program partners and international competitions�such as in Japan�are increasing pressure on it to do so. The breakthrough comes as more international JSF partners near buying decisions. However, the added numbers will likely have only little impact on the debate about the F-35 unit cost, since initial procurement numbers for non-U.S. buyers are relatively small compared to the Pentagon's purchases. By far the most contentious fight over F-35 technology has centered on Israel, which wants to adapt the aircraft to use indigenously developed electronic warfare (EW) equipment. After strongly resisting this for some time, Washington now has agreed to allow Israeli F-35s to be rewired so that Israeli EW systems can be installed on the aircraft. That would allow Israel to gradually add indigenous EW sensors and countermeasures on its fighters once it receives its first squadron. With that deal in hand, officials for both the Israeli air force and Lockheed Martin expect the S2.7 billion contract for the procurement of 19 or 20 F-35As will be signed by early next year.