Israel Cuts F-35 Purchase from 31 to 14 Jets

Intelligence Minister says other jets have much better maneuverability, weapons carrying capabilities.

Gil Ronen ,

US Marine Corp version of F-35
US Marine Corp version of F-35

The Ministerial Committee of Acquisitions decided Sunday to approve the purchase of 14 US-made F-35 stealth jets, instead of the 31 jets that the Defense Ministry and IDF wanted to buy. Israel will reserve the option to buy additional F-35 jets at a later date.

The 14 jets are in addition to the 19 jets Israel has already committed to buying. 

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) showed other ministers a presentation that cast doubt on the plane's true value, in comparison with other models of fighter jets in which Israeli technology can be fitted, which have better maneuverability and which have a far better capacity for carrying weapons than the stealth F-35.

"Since the plane is not yet operational in the US,” added Steinitz, “I suggested that we make do with the purchase of less than half the amount, and wait with decisions on purchasing additional jets, as several other countries – like Australia, Italy, Canada and Holland – have done.”

The favorable decision by a majority of the ministers, Steinitz noted, proves that the government does not have to be a rubber stamp of the defense establishment and can make decisions democratically.

The decision is seen by some pundits as a blow to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud), who announced the deal following a visit to the US this year.