Israel wants the Obama administration and Lockheed-Martin Company (NYSE: LMT) to set up a US-run logistics and maintenance center for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet in the Negev, reports "Defense News", quoting US and Israeli government and industry sources. Lockheed-Martin is the chief contractor for the F-35, which is due to become the next-generation mainstay of the Israel Air Force.
The request is basically a new Israeli condition to Israel's commitment to procure the expensive planes.
"Defense News" says that Israeli officials consider construction of a large logistics center to be a critical factor for independent operational capabilities, especially since airports and seaports are liable to be targets of rocket and missile attacks in a war.
Ministry of Defense director general Udi Shani told "Defense News" that Israel really wants a US logistics center in the Negev, and that it's a very serious matter for Israel. Beyond the issue of costs and the use of Israeli subsystems in the F-35, he said that there were strategic issues: how to support the investment for it and how to keep operational independence.
Shani added that in an era of asymmetrical warfare, with rockets and missiles filling the air, it was hard to imagine US Galaxy cargo planes or US supply ships arriving in Israel when it might need them.
The Israeli request for a logistics center is the last link in a chain of Israeli demands for technology transfer, industrial cooperation, and other issues, which are delaying Israel's commitment to procure the first batch of F-35s.
"The New York Times" last week quoted Pentagon sources as saying that each F-35 will cost $92.4 million, compared with the 2002 estimate of $50 million. However, if the US Air Force still intends to go ahead with its planned procurements, the price could fall to $65 million per plane, including its subsystems, by 2014-15. The price of F-35s sold to Israel is not yet certain, but they will unquestionably be the most expensive planes ever procured by the Israel Air Force.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 24, 2010
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