Warplanes: F-35 Sticker Shock


November 21,2008: Israel is having second thoughts about buying the new American F-35 stealth fighter-bomber. When Israel first bought into the program back in 2002, the quoted "flyaway" costs per aircraft was $47 million. When delivered, in 2014, the price was expected to rise to an inflation adjusted $80 million. But now, after Israeli add-ons (mostly electronics), support and training costs have all been added, the per-aircraft cost has hit $200 million. This has caused a big case of sticker shock among senior Israeli defense and political officials.

The F-35s manufacturer is in full damage-control mode. The main argument being made is that the special equipment Israeli firms are designing and manufacturing will keep nearly half the aircraft work in Israel, and will create enormous potential sales of that gear to other F-35 users. It's expected that some 3,000 F-35s will be built, with nearly half sold to non-U.S. air forces.

U.S. Air Force simulations and studies have shown the F-35 to be four times as effective against any current fighter (the best of them known as "fourth generation" aircraft.) The major advantages of the F-35 are engine power (it's one engine generates more power than the two engines used in the Eurofighter or F-18), stealth and the fact that it can fight "clean" (without any pods or missiles hung from its wings, and interfering with maximum maneuverability).

The 27 ton F-35 is armed with an internal 25mm cannon and four internal air-to-air missiles (or two missiles and two smart bombs). Plus four external smart bombs and two missiles. All sensors are carried internally, and max weapon load is 6.8 tons. The aircraft is very stealthy when just carrying internal weapons. The first F-35s will be delivered in two years.



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