The American-based weekly Defense News has reported that the United States Department of Defense has acknowledged deficiencies and technical shortcomings of some versions of the new F-35 warplanes, which Israel is buying.
The DoD report, compiled by the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation Directorate, noted problems with the F-35 Lightning II's handling and avionics, among other things. Lockheed Martin, the American manufacturer of the planes, is also reported to have delayed testing on the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft due to other qualitative shortcomings.
It is currently unclear how recent revelations regarding the F-35 will affect the State of Israel and its defensive capabilities. Washington annually provides Jerusalem with roughly $3 billion in military aid, and the F-35 had been a major incentive for Israeli leaders to cooperate with American policies that some view as detrimental to Israeli national interests.
Last October, Israel National News reported on a ceremony in New York in which Israeli Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Shani signed an agreement for the Jewish state to purchase its first squadron of F-35 jets for $2.75 billion.
The agreement called for Israel to receive the stealth fighters from Washington between the years 2015 and 2017, at a cost of $96 million per aircraft (including engines, simulators, spare parts and maintenance).
The fighter jets were expected, according to a report in Aviation Week, to possess Israeli add-ons, such as altering the cockpit interfaces to use IDF communications, control and intelligence systems, installing Israeli equipment on the F-35 main computer and installing a detachable fuel tank that would extend the warplane's range but make it easier to detect when attached.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave their final approval for the purchase in September, at which time Netanyahu said that “Purchasing this fighter jet, the most technically advanced on earth, is a significant step in strengthening Israel's military prowess.”
The revelations regarding the F-35's deficiencies are expected to strengthened advocates of Israel manufacturing its own military hardware and becoming increasingly independent in matters of defense.