This past week, the F-35 successfully conducted its first aerial cannon shooting trial
“I believe we will acquire over 70 F-35I’s in the IAF”,
“The F-35I is bringing a new deterrence force to Israel”
This past week, the F-35 successfully conducted its first aerial cannon shooting trial and as such has passed another mile stone. Israel’s “Lockheed Martin” office is already counting down the seconds for the first IAF pair of F-35I. “The F-35I is bringing a new deterrence force to Israel”
Talya Yariv & Noa Fenigstein | Translation by: Ofri Aharon
For the first time last week, the F-35 conducted aerial cannon shooting trial. “Lockheed Martin” declared that the developments are on schedule and the trial stands as a significant advancement for the stealth fighter that supposed to join the IAF by the end of 2016.
In the “Lockheed Martin” offices in Tel Aviv, employees are counting down the minutes and seconds for the first two F-35Is to land in Nevatim Airbase.
“We can already talk about it in terms of next year. It’s approaching”, exclaimed Brig Gen (Res.) Yehoshua Shani, Chief Executive of Israel’s “Lockheed Martin” in an exclusive interview with the IAF Magazine.
The F-35I is the topic of conversation in the public: people believe it’s the last manned fighter and the most advanced of them in the world. On the other hand, some believe the F-16I would win a “Dogfight” and that it’s overpriced. “TheF-35 experienced many difficulties with its development and received hostile remarks from the public”, Shani admitted. “Some of the remarks were true, because every development process can come with difficulties. But some of it is politics, because once there is a fighter jet that could overcome the world and doesn’t have any competitors, of course others will try to bring it down. Today the developments are going smoothly and according to the updated schedule”.
Does the IAF need the F-35I?
“Combat jets have a limited life span and the IAF cannot stand without combat jets. We can purchase more F-16Is or buy the new jet”, he replied. “At the same time, no one can bring it down”.
“The Air Force is expensive and there’s a reason for that”
The expensive price of the F-35 stands as a constant argument in the United States and around the world, thus the developers are working to lower the price no less than they are working on the jet itself.
“The more demand and production, the more the price will lower. The production line is working non-stop and producing 150 fighter jets per year. In two years, the production line will be producing on average a jet per day, meaning over 200 jets a year”, explains Shani. “The prices of the F-35I that will be purchased by Israel in 2018 and will be handed over in 2020 are expected to cost 85 million dollars. The price has lowered immensely in comparison to the first F-35 that was developed and the price is lowering and is expected to reach the lowest cost by 2017”.
Is the jet worth its price?
“No. It would be better to have peace”, he smiled. “It’s worth the price. The jet is bringing a new deterrence force to Israel. The IAF is expensive and there’s a reason for that. This jet will give the IAF new, innovative capabilities. Of course, others will try to develop their jets to attempt avoiding its missiles and radars, however, the F-35I will only continue to develop simultaneously. Every expected upgrade is better than its preceding and we have only just begun with the F-35I”.
In the beginning of November 2014, a production line of F-35 wings was inaugurated in IAI (Israel Aerospace Industry). According to the contract with “Lockheed Martin”, they will produce 800 pairs of wings over the next 15 years, worth two and a half billion dollars.
The factory will produce wings for the countries that will operate the F-35, although Israel is not one of the partners in the project. The IAI is not the only Israeli company participating in the global project and the Israeli company, “Elbit Systems”, manufactured the F-35 pilot’s helmet.
“We didn’t begin this process as partners, but the gap lessened quickly. At the beginning we could not make appropriate changes, we were treated like observers”, he tells. “When we began leading, the gaps began to close”.
The F-35I will be revolutionary to the IAF. “I cannot say for sure how the IAF will look in a decade, but it is clear that there will be an immense change. In my opinion, there is no doubt that the F-16I squadron and F-15I squadron will continue to serve in the IAF for many years. I believe we will acquire over 70 F-35I’s in the IAF”, stated Shani. “There is currently no substitute for the combat pilot. We cannot replace a pilot who can reach the right decision in real time. This small gap will be preserved for the next 30-40 years”.
The fifth generation will be the last manned combat planes?
“No”, stated the CE of Israel’s “Lockheed Martin”. “There are already visions for the sixth generation”.