By YAAKOV KATZ 04/13/2011
Delivery of Joint Strike Fighter only expected in 2018, air force considers buying used squadron from US, upgrading older jets.
Fearing major delays to the Joint Strike Fighter, the IAF is exploring whether to purchase a used squadron of F-15 fighter jets from the US Air Force, as it faces a possible drop in its number of combat aircraft.
Israel decided to purchase a squadron of 20 F-35 stealth fifth-generation JSFs, which are made by Lockheed Martin, last year in a massive $2.75 billion deal, to be financed by the military assistance Israel receives from the United States.
The program has recently encountered significant development delays. Other countries, such as Turkey and Norway, have also reportedly put their purchases of the aircraft on hold.
The F-35 is supposed to be one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world and will enable Israel to phase out some of its older F-15 and F-16 models.
According to the IAF, the plane will significantly boost Israel’s deterrence in the Middle East and provide it with an edge on adversaries that operate advanced anti-aircraft systems, since it is a stealth jet that cannot be detected by existing radars.
Due to the delays, the IDF is working on a plan that includes upgrading its current fleet of legendary F-15s and F-16s that it had planned on phasing out, as well as the procurement of a squadron of used F-15s from the USAF that will serve as a “gap filler” for the IAF until the JSF arrives, now expected as late as 2018.