Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak has cleared a controversial proposal for the purchase of American F-35 stealth fighter jets, which will once again up the ante in this conflict-prone region as these fighters are designed to act as substantial force multipliers. Israel will now contract for 20 of these fighters at a cost of around $2.75 billion, with first deliveries expected to be made in 2015.
The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is manufactured by global aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin Corp. Lockheed is also the manufacturer of the world's only fully operational stealth fighter, the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor.
The Israeli option for the purchase of the F-35 Lightning II turned controversial as the Israelis, with a substantially advanced aerospace and defence industry of their own insisted on modifications being made to these aircraft allowing them to carry Israeli-designed sensors and armaments. The demand was turned down by American authorities who made it clear that such an option would not be made available to the Israelis.
After a considerable period of eyeballing it would now appear that some kind of a compromise would have been worked out between the two sides.
The Americans are desperate to increase the size of their potential customers in a bid to increase the number of units on order and in the process bring down per unit costs of the aircraft.
In recessionary times the Israeli Air Force will have to settle for a much smaller number of such aircraft than originally planned. It is not clear how many but it would be certainly much less than the 75 planned.