Israeli F-35 purchase decision imminent (4)

21:51, July 21, 2010      

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In the back of Israel's mind as it prepares to open its checkbook is what it says is Iran's secret nuclear weapons program. Like many Western nations, Israel remains convinced that Tehran is lying when it says its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes.

While Israel says it is prepared to see how the latest rounds of sanctions from the UN Security Council and individual states will affect Iran, it is still keeping open the option of a military strike.

There have been suggestions that Israel's current air force is simply not sufficiently equipped to carry out pinpoint strikes against all of Iran's nuclear facilities, which are thought to number in excess of 20.

While Oelstrom sees a potential role for the F-35s in any operation against Tehran, he believes Israel's existing aerial fighting force would also play a major part.

"If you had a goodly number of F-15Es and F-35s I would suspect that you would still be putting both aircraft within plans to be able to strike some place as far away as Iran," said Oelstrom.

Both Ben-David and the retired lieutenant general said that the F-35 would ensure Israel maintains its military edge over other regional players.

The first clear advantage is the stealth nature of the aircraft, which is something most in the region do not possess. The stealth component of the plane does not make it totally invisible to radar but it does make it difficult to detect.

"Any time that you are stealthier and can go places with less recognition, that's an advantage," said Oelstrom. He thinks Israel will have a particular lead when it comes to the air-to-air arena because of the avionics and missiles on board.

"This maintains the qualitative advantage of the Israeli air force," added Ben-David, who stressed that the F-35 is not the panacea but would give Israel a distinct psychological edge in the Middle East, even if advanced Russia defensive systems are deployed in the region.Source: Xinhua
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