Scandal-Plagued F-35 Set to Take Flight in Israel

F-35 100th flight

 

With the US and Israel nearing an agreement on a new military aid package, Lockheed Martin has unveiled the first F-35 to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

Despite significant delays in its development, the F-35 Lightning II is finally beginning to take flight. On Tuesday, an F-35A “ADIR” that will ultimately be delivered to Israel, was unveiled at the Ft. Worth, Texas, production facility.

“The State of Israel is proud to be the first in our region to receive and operate the plane,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said during the ceremony, according to the Jerusalem Post. Liberman described the aircraft as “the most advanced in the world, and is the best selection by defense chiefs for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority.”

Israel has ordered 33 F-35As, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the aircraft, and has an option to purchase 17 more.

Using the F-35 flight simulator, IAF Chief of Staff Bridg.-Gen. Tal Kalman said he felt like he “had the future in my hands.”

The beleaguered F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been riddled with problems throughout its development. Costing over $1 trillion, the F-35 has had issues with software, engines, helmets, and even its dogfighting performance.

While Israel seems happy with its purchase, for the time being, the jet fighter’s reputation has already caused a number of countries to consider backing out of the program, including Canada and Denmark.

Liberman has been holding meetings with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in recent weeks to secure the new defense aid package. Nearing completion, the deal will provide $40 billion in primarily military aid over a ten-year period.

“The United States is our most important strategic partner, a true friend, and we have to treat it that way. The [American] offer is positive and fair,” Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told reporters on Monday.

“The defense establishment can certainly live with the current offer, and there’s no reason to take any act that will be interpreted as intervention in domestic American issues.”

According to the Pentagon, “Israel will be the first foreign partner to receive the F-35, which will play a key role in maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.”

It remains unclear which of the many available modifications Israeli F-35s will incorporate. Electronic warfare pods, assorted weaponry, and various security systems are all possibilities.

Russia to Return Israeli Tank Seized by Syria During First Lebanon War

Israeli M48 tank

 

Russia is preparing to return an Israeli tank captured by Syrian troops in early 1980s and exhibited in the Kubinka Tank Museum near Moscow, the Israeli government said Sunday.

TEL AVIV  The Magach tank, based on the US tank M48 Patton, was seized by the Syrian troops during the battle of Sultan Yacoub and then sent to Russia where it was exhibited in the tank museum.

“At the end of the week, Israel got the notification that Russian President Vladimir Putin acceded to the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return the tank that the Syrians gave the Russian army and that is now being exhibited in the tank museum,” the statement of the Israeli government’s press service said.

Last month, Netanyahu asked Putin to return the tank, saying the vehicle stood testament to the memory of three Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, who went missing during the war.

An Israeli military delegation is currently working out details for the tank’s return with Russian counterparts in Moscow.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday for his decision to return to Israel a tank seized by the Syrian troops in 1982 during the First Lebanon War.

“I thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for acceding to my request to return to Israel the tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement published on the website of his office.

He pointed out the importance of the step for the families of three Israel Defense Forces (IDF) servicemen, who went missing during the war.

“To the families of MIAs Zechariah Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehudah Katz, there has been nothing to remember the boys by and no grave to visit for 34 years now. The tank is the only evidence of the battle and now it is coming back to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request,” Netanyahu stated.

 

Russian S-300 Supplies to Iran Prompt Turks, Saudis to Turn to Israel

S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems

Russia delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Iran dispels Israel’s threat to attack the Islamic Republic; at the same time, it may increase tensions between Tehran and the countries of the anti-Iranian bloc, according to Turkish political analyst Hakan Gunes.

In an interview with Sputnik, Turkish political analyst Hakan Gunes said that Israel’s threat to attack Iran becomes irrelevant in light of the delivery of Russia’s S-300 air defense systems to the Islamic Republic, which, however, may fuel further tensions between Tehran and the countries of the anti-Iranian bloc.Gunes specifically stressed that the S-300 deliveries added significantly to the strengthening of Iran’s defense capabilities.

“Aggravating the situation around Russia’s S-300 shipments to Iran was first of all provoked by Israel and Saudi Arabia. The S-300 systems are defensive rather than offensive weaponry. They do not pose a threat to any state, and are designed to ensure the safety of a country’s airspace from a possible missile attack,” he said.

According to him, the S-300 supplies to Iran alarmed Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have repeatedly threatened to launch a missile strike on the Islamic Republic.

“Israel and Saudi Arabia have more than once made statements about a medium-range missile strike on Iran’s infrastructure. These statements became irrelevant now that Iran has received the S-300 systems,” Gunes said.

He also pointed to contradictions in Washington’s relations with its allies in the region, including Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, something that have been in place in the past 18 months.Gunes suggested that these countries cannot wait to see US President Obama’s term end after the November elections in order to intensify their anti-Iranian activities. He predicted that the next few months may see further rapprochement between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In case of a conflict with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are most likely to turn to the Israeli lobby in the US for support, according to him.

“With an ever-increasing activity of the countries of the anti-Iranian bloc, confrontation between them and Iran could escalate after the November elections in the US,” Gunes said.

The first batch of the S-300 surface-to-air missiles capable of downing jets was delivered to Iran on April 11, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Russia and Iran signed a 900-million-dollar contract in 2007 amid opposition from Israel and the United States. The deal was suspended after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran in mid-2010.In April 2015, Russia resumed talks on S-300 deliveries following a framework agreement on a landmark pact that aimed to ensure the peaceful nature of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Israel, in turn, criticized Russia’s decision to go ahead with arms deliveries to Iran, saying that it would allegedly further destabilize the region.