US may make early delivery of F-35 JSF fighter to Israel, suggests report

In an effort to counter growing threat to Israel, its close ally in the Mideast region, the United States may bring forward planned sales to the country of its advanced F-35 warplanes, suggests a report in The Jerusalem Post.

Quoting unnamed defence officials, The Jerusalem Post said the Pentagon has agreed to supply the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to Israel as early as 2012, around the same time as the US air force.

The F-35 JSF is one of the two supersonic, radar-evading fifth generation jets being developed by the US for warfare in the twenty first century.

The report assumes significance, as Israel is not among the eight countries partnering with Washington in producing the F-35, and had been expected to receive delivery of the aircraft only in 2014 or 2015. It even had its buying rights briefly suspended in a row with the Pentagon over unauthorised defence exports to China.

According to The Post, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak got US agreement to accelerate the F-35 sale during talks with defence secretary, Robert Gates, in Washington last week. The report also suggests that Barak may have overcome US objection to Israel installing its own technology on the aircraft.

This has met with US resistance in the past.