Israel is working with Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office to maximize autonomy of its planned stealth fighter force, including its own command, control, communications and computing (C4) system, indigenous weaponry and the ability to perform heavy maintenance in country rather than at predetermined regional overhaul facilities.
Once the first F-35Is arrive here in December, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will begin installing a tailor-made C4 system on top of the central avionics embedded in the joint strike fighter.
“It’s open architecture, which sits on the F-35’s central system, much like an application on your iPhone. So it doesn’t change anything in the aircraft itself, but it gives the Israel Air Force (IAF) the most advanced and adaptable processing capabilities with relative independence of the aircraft manufacturer,” said Benni Cohen, general manager of IAI’s Lahav Division.
In an interview Monday, Cohen said IAI is already producing the C4 system for installation in the first planes due here in December. “It introduces a new level of freedom for the IAF, as it paves the way for additional advanced capabilities to be embedded in the F-35I in the future,” he said.
As for weaponry, the Israel Air Force and state-owned Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd. have been working with Lockheed Martin to adapt the Israeli Spice 1000 electro-optic standoff precision strike system for internal carriage on the F-35.
Sacrificing stealth for more range and other options
Similarly, Lockheed Martin is engaged with Cyclone Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems, on external fuel tanks to augment range beyond the 18,500 pounds of fuel carried internally by the F-35. At a later phase, Israeli defense and industry sources say they hope to develop with Lockheed Martin — and with the consent of JSF partner nations — conformal fuel tanks to significantly extend the range while in stealth mode.
Israel has many enemies with different levels of air defense capability.
It can be more important for Israel to be able to hit enemies that are farther away than to have maximum stealth in all situations.
Israel has a history of heavily modifying their F15 and F16 planes.
Stealth may only last another 5-10 years against countries with advanced defenses
In 2012 Aviation Week article indicated that low radar cross section is a niche capability [aka stealth], and new sensor technology advances can make it less important. China, India and Russia are already finding weaknesses in stealth as they develop it for their own advanced strike aircraft. A senior Israeli Air Force official as saying (of the F-35) “We think the stealth protection will be good for 5–10 years, but the aircraft will be in service for 30–40 years.”
In terms of technology programs, five to 10 years is more or less an appropriate length of time to develop a new, medium-to-high complexity system based on well-understood physics.
Something that degrades stealth capability somewhat won’t mean that the stealthiness is completely going to disappear.
F15 Silent Eagle
Israel could learn to adapt the stealth modifications to all of their older F15 fighters.
SOURCES – Defense News, Aviation Week