Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Obama Administration Hampers Israeli F-35 Purchase

by David Bedein

The Obama administration has begun imposing obstacles on Israeli efforts to procure American-built jet fighters.

According to Middle East Newsline, Obama administration sources said the White House has drafted measures that could prevent Israel from procuring fighters, such as the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

They said the administration plans to require Israel to obtain special permission from the Defense Department and State Department before acquiring the JSF.

“The measures would make it more difficult for non-NATO allies to acquire JSF,” a source said.

Under the proposals, the Pentagon would order modifications of the JSF to provide the aircraft with nuclear strike capabilities. The sources said such a capability would provide the Pentagon with access to money to maintain and develop the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

“Once JSF obtains nuclear strike capability, there becomes a problem with exports,” the source said. “NATO countries would have less of a problem; non-NATO countries would need special exemptions.”

The sources said Lockheed Martin would not be instructed to develop both nuclear- and non-nuclear models of the F-35 for the first stage of production. Israel has sought to become among the first export clients of JSF.

Over the last few months, the administration has rejected a series of Israeli requests regarding modifications of the F-35. They included Israeli electronic warfare systems and acquisition of U.S. software codes that would allow Israel to repair the aircraft's central computer. The U.S. refusal meant that the Israel Air Force would be forced to send the F-35 to the United States for any repairs, a process that could take months.

The administration has also been resisting Israeli requests for technical data on the new F-15SE (Silent Eagle) fighter. The sources said the State Department has been delaying Israeli requests for pre-export licenses required to examine the next generation F-15, which incorporates certain stealth characteristics.

The sources said the administration has not approved the new F-15 for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. They said this could prevent Israel from using U.S. military aid to purchase the aircraft from Boeing.

“This is a legal issue,” a source said. “The F-15SE might not qualify for FMS.”

See this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this story at Israel Behind the News

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