Here Comes the Israeli F-35

It's been a long time coming, but the very first F-35I Adir rolled off the Lockheed-Martin assembly line in Fort Worth yesterday for a scheduled December delivery to the Israeli Air Force:

Israel’s air force, which will be the first to have a fully operational F-35 outside the United States, is scheduled to buy 33 Lightning IIs and has an option to buy 17 more. The aircraft on stage Wednesday will undergo additional testing before being delivered in December.

Analysts say that Israel’s purchase of the fighter already means that the Jewish state will be the dominant air power in the Middle East for the foreseeable future. The F-35 is so crucial to the country’s defense that Wednesday’s rollout ceremony was broadcast live on Israeli television.

The event in the Fort Worth hangar sparked tweets from around the world. The Israelis, more than once, praised the Obama administration for supporting their defense with the purchase of the F-35, with Liberman saying it came despite the countries’ disputes over how it deals with its neighbors.

Whatever you might think of the F-35 -- it's late and overpriced, and just one reason why I have a recurring Procurement Blues feature -- the Israelis promise to make it better. Or do they threaten to?


Perhaps betraying their reservations about what usually happens the American weapons after the Israelis lay their hands on them, Lockheed executives said Israel would be able to add specific capabilities or upgraded functions—which the Israelis love doing—as long as it did not affect the overall design or the aircraft software. As Over put it:

The Israelis have an ability to do some unique things. But anything wholesale that would impact the design or capabilities driving all the airplanes for all the countries would have to be done by consensual agreement.

The IAF is preparing to send its first group of pilots to train in Arizona next year, at the Luke Air Force Base. At the same time, the IAF will be sending dozens of maintenance professionals to train at US Air Force logistics bases at Eglin, Florida, according to Defense News.

Good luck stopping the IAF from modifying the platform to suit Israel's needs rather than Lockheed's -- and the IAF has quite a history of doing just that, as you'll see below.