Let’s Be Friends With F-35

Israel’s Ambassador to the US predicts that his country will have a “significant need” for the capabilities that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter offers, but he would not confirm that any formal request for airframes is on the way. “We are obviously interested, we have been in discussions with the [Bush] Administration on this matter,” Ambassador Sallai Meridor told reporters Tuesday at a Defense Writers Group breakfast. “I cannot tell you exactly how many and what configuration and when.” Israeli officials have said that the country is seeking around 100 aircraft to replace older F-16s in the Israeli Air Force. Meridor also calmly deflected inquiries about the level of cooperation in the program, in light of the technology-sharing dispute that arose in 2005 that prompted the country’s temporary exclusion from the JSF effort. “I think American officials are more important to listen to on this matter than me,” Meridor said. He went on to say that be believes US officials “deeply appreciate” the level of Israeli cooperation and assistance in the program and other defense efforts. “It’s very good and very extensive and very wide and deep,” he added.