Photo: IDF Spokesman
Do we need more than this? F-16 fighter jet
Photo: IDF Spokesman

F-35 or M.R.I.?

Does Israel really need another 100 fighter planes?

The end of the crisis with the United States over Israel's defense equipment exports, and Israel's return to the group of countries developing the F-35 fighter jet (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter) is a welcome, important development.


Even more than the necessary security cooperation with the United States, the project holds economic and scientific importance for Israel involvement in this project.


But along side this development, announced during Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's visit to Washington last weekend, was another, no less important development.


Sources close to Mofaz said Israel is interested in obtaining about 100 F-35s when development is completed, some ten years from now. The announcement was almost "by-the-way", and there has been no public debate about a crucial economic and security development.


Attack plane


The F-35 will be a war plane, whose main use will be to attack land-based targets. It will replace several planes in the American arsenal, most importantly for Israel the F-16.


But it bears reminding that our air force is currently in the process of integrating new F-16 fighter planes, purchased not long ago for about 4 billion dollars.


More than a few senior officers thought, including former IDF head of strategic planning Eival Giladi, have even said publicly, that the deal was too big, and didn't meet Israel's real needs.


The new deal will be a lot bigger – if it really does include 100 planes, it will cost us more than double the F-16 deal.


A lot of this money will come from American aid, but we are still speaking about an about money that could be used for other things, or perhaps, God forbid, that we could do without it.


Buying planes is just a small part of its cost. After we've got them, there is maintenance, running costs, pilot training – each of these cost an incredible amount and come out of an already-exorbitant defense budget that every economist in the country says should be significantly cut.


F-16 or M.R.I?


The finance ministry routinely says that Israel must decide if it wants more F-16s or more M.R.I. machines in hospitals. The new deal is much more than one M.R.I. machine.


Who knows – has anybody even explained? – why we need the new plane, or how many we really need?


Israel already enjoys vast air superiority over our neighbors. Our planes can effectively deal with ground-based threats (remember, the F-35 is primarily an attack plane).


Unmanned drones


We are world-class with everything to do with unmanned aircraft.


Perhaps we could make due with a few more drones, that would be cheaper to run, and wouldn't require pilot training or endanger pilot's lives.


Many people say the F-35 is the last manned fighter plane that technologically developed countries will use. Do we really need 100 of them?


And how is the decision being taken- why is there no opportunity for the public, that will pay a heavy price for the planes, to ask questions and receive answers?


Bitter irony


In order to give a bitter-ironic twist to the whole story, the whole story comes to light the same week in which the air force staged a huge operation, including sonic booms over Gaza.


Without discussing the morality or benefit of this action, we should take note of the gap between the costs of the Israeli security projects as compared to the use they have in times of war.


But just like the public asks no questions about just what the sonic booms accomplish, it does not ask about just why we need 100 F-35s, today or in another 10 years.


פרסום ראשון: 11.09.05, 13:32
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