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US agrees deal to buy 43 more F-35 fighters: Pentagon
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 28, 2014

Israel to buy second batch of US F-35 fighters: media
Jerusalem (AFP) Oct 28, 2014 - Israel and the United States have agreed the sale of a second batch of Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters to the Jewish state, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

Haaretz newspaper said the deal, concluded by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Yaalon, was for "at least 20" of the planes.

The Israeli defence ministry did not immediately respond to AFP's request for confirmation.

The Jerusalem Post said Israel signed a $2.75 billion (2.17 billion euro) deal in 2012 to buy a squadron of 19 F-35s from Lockheed Martin and received Pentagon approval to purchase an additional 75.

Both papers said delivery of the initial order should start by the end of 2016 and be completed by 2018.

The first planes of the second squadron should start arriving in 2019, they said.

The Post said that the two defence ministers finalised the new purchase "in recent days."

The men met last week in Washington to a backdrop of fresh tensions between the two allies over Israeli criticism of US foreign policy, Israeli announcements of settlement expansion and remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry linking the growth of militant Islam to Israel's decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

Israeli company Elbit Systems is taking part in the manufacture of hi-tech helmets for F-35 pilots and state-owned Israel Military Industries manufactures aircraft parts.

The planes, which comes in conventional, vertical takeoff and aircraft carrier versions, have been hit by production delays and cost overruns.

Designed to replace fighters in the US Air Force, Navy and Marines and supported by a consortium of eight countries, the programme is the most expensive in US military history with a price tag of $395.7 billion.

UK to confirm first F-35 orders 'within weeks'
London (AFP) Oct 28, 2014 - Britain on Tuesday announced an agreement in principle with US manufacturer Lockheed Martin for an order for the first of 14 F-35B combat jets, with a formal contract expected "within weeks".

The four Lightning II stealth combat aircraft will operate from both of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers and Royal Air Force land bases, with another 10 due to be ordered over the next five years.

The first batch is expected to be delivered in 2016 and will take up station in 2018.

"Today's announcement is a major step forward," said Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon.

"The Lightning II will equip the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force with a highly advanced multi-role stealth combat aircraft," he said.

The planes feature short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) and the latest stealth and intelligence surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology.

The British government has long planned to provide its air and naval forces with F-35Bs but has been undecided on how many to buy.

British industrial giants BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce have played a major role in developing the jet, the Pentagon's most expensive ever programme.

Britain already has three F-35s, based in the US, and has ordered a fourth jet, but only for testing and evaluation purposes.

The F-35 should have appeared at this year's Farnborough International Airshow near London, but was grounded by technical problems and could not cross the Atlantic.

The Pentagon will buy another 43 F-35 fighter jets worth roughly $4 billion from aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, officials said Tuesday, four months after it was briefly grounded following an engine fire.

Although final details have to be worked out, the "handshake agreement" will mean the price of each plane will drop slightly within America's most expensive weapons program, said Kyra Hawn, spokeswoman for the Joint Strike Fighter office.

The price per aircraft will be "approximately 3.6 percent lower than the previous contract," Hawn said. That would put the price of the plane at roughly around $100 million, according to some estimates, though the cost varies for each of the three variants of the jet.

The radar-evading F-35 has been portrayed as the future backbone of the military's fighter fleet, supposed to preserve US dominance in the skies. But the program has struggled with technical problems, budget overruns and repeated delays.

The latest headache came in June when a mysterious engine fire led commanders to ground the fleet briefly until the problem could be resolved. As a result, officials had to cancel plans to send the F-35 to fly at Britain's prestigious Farnborough air show in July because of safety precautions.

Technicians are now carrying out repairs in the test fleet to ensure the plane's engines are sound, according to Pentagon officials.

The latest deal calls for manufacturing an additional 29 jets for the United States, as well as the first two F-35s for Israel and the first four of the aircraft for Japan.

In addition, the agreement will deliver two F-35s each for Italy and Norway and four fighters for Britain.

There are three versions of the aircraft, a standard model for the US Air Force, one designed for short take-off and vertical landings for the US Marine Corps and another outfitted to land on an aircraft carrier for the Navy.

Despite being years behind schedule, the F-35 enjoys strong support in Congress, and contractor Lockheed Martin has spread the work for the plane across 45 US states.

The Pentagon plans to spend $391.2 billion on a total of 2,443 aircraft.

When taking into account the cost of flying and maintaining the F-35 over the course of its life, the program could cost more than a trillion dollars, according to the Government Accountability Office.

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