Israel’s ministerial committee is revisiting a preliminary deal to buy 25 to 31 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp.
The committee allegedly wants to halve the tentative order by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, according to Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
A majority of committee members were opposed to the deal as it currently stands, Steinitz told Reuters on Monday. The ministers suggested a purchase of 10 to 15 planes instead, with a final decision to come in the near future.
Among the reasons cited for the decision was the issue of cuts in the defense budget, as well as questions over whether the F-35’s range, payload and maneuverability really met Israel’s needs.
An original contract signed in 2010 to purchase 19 of the warplanes for $275 billion left open the option to buy 75 of the jets, or three squadrons.
However, there is a growing sense among some Israelis that it is time for the Jewish State to begin producing its own weapons and ammunition — including its own warplanes.
This summer’s block by the White House on delivery of Hellfire missiles during the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge — in fact, its holdup of any military hardware whatsoever — did not sit well with the Israeli public, and served as a wakeup call even to those on the moderate left end of the political spectrum.
“We are not the Defense Ministry’s rubber stamp,” Steinitz told Reuters. Nevertheless, a source in the defense establishment told the news agency the ministerial committee is likely to compromise on the deal, possibly purchasing 13 of the F-35s this year, and another 18 in 2017.
The F35s that were purchased in 2010 are scheduled for delivery between 2016 and 2018.