Israel Eyes F-35 Stealth Fighters

WASHINGTON — Israel is seeking to buy America’s multirole F-35 radar-evading stealth warplanes, the world’s most advanced striker fighter.

"Obviously Israel wants to defend itself, and the United States has been supportive," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told a press briefing on Wednesday, June 5.

"It’s possible that things could come up."

Israel has recently submitted a formal request for pricing information of the F-35A Joint Striker Fighter.

It wants to start purchasing the fighter "as early as fiscal 2011" with deliveries taking about two years, a Pentagon’s program official told Reuters.

He expects a government-to-government deal by the fall of 2009, after the projected completion of contract negotiations and technology-transfer pacts.

An Israeli Embassy spokesman declined to comment.

The strike fighter is still under development at Lockheed Martin facilities in Texas, and has yet to enter operational service.

So far, Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier, has one US order for two F-35As plus funding authorization for six more.

But the company said Wednesday it had "production maturity and capacity to handle additional F-35 aircraft in the 2011 time frame and beyond."

Eight countries, including Britain, Turkey and Australia, helped foot the bill to develop the F-35.

Britain is due to get two F-35As from the third production batch for its operational tests and evaluation.

The Netherlands would get one. Italy is close to a final decision to buy one at the same time.

Sophisticated

The F-35 is considered the world’s most advanced striker fighter.

The single-seat, supersonic F-35 serves as a fighter, bomber and ground-support aircraft.

It is hard to detect by radar and is designed to knock out enemy fighters while simultaneously carrying out bombing missions.

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier, describes the F-35 as the most electronically advanced aircraft ever built, with capabilities unavailable in current multi-role fighters.

The F-35A is expected to have an unrefueled combat radius of 600 nautical miles, according to the Congressional Research Service.

This means the fighter can travel a distance to a target and return without refueling.

Israel is planning to integrate its own weapons, communications, command, control and intelligence systems into the sophisticated F-35 fighter, said the Pentagon official.

Israel also may be interested later in the F-35B version which has the additional capacities of short takeoff and vertical landing.

Lockheed Martin already has funding authorization for six of the F-35B models.

(IslamOnline.net and agencies)

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