The first two of 50 Israeli F-35s arrive in Israel tomorrow. They mark the entry of the Israeli Air Force into the twenty first century. Although the 50 aircraft Israel has purchased so far are hardly enough to replace Israel’s fleet of F16s and F15s they are certainly going to be placed right into the front line.
The F-35 is a controversial aircraft whose development has been plagued with problems ensuring that the platform has its share of critics however these aircraft haven’t even begun to embrace their potential. They are truly networked war machines that will transmit, relay and receive data at levels previously unknown meaning that targets on the ground and in the air will be able to hit more precisely and effectively than ever before.
Israel will have the first operational squadron of F-35s outside of the US military. These aircraft are to be continually used and upgraded over the next 50 years meaning they’re capabilities today represent only a fraction of their potential in the coming decades.
But they’re not the best aircraft. Not by a long shot. That role belongs to the F-22 Raptor, an aircraft with such lethality that US congress has refused to sell it outside of the United States and such a high price tag that they produced less than 200 of them for their own air force.
The F-22’s operational debut came in the skies over Syria two years ago. It’s the only fifth generation fighter aircraft in the air other than the F-35. The Raptor is an aircraft was built for air superiority that can also bomb ground targets whereas the F-35 is a ground attack aircraft that can also shoot down other planes. But only the F-35 was cleared for sale to foreign countries.
The Chinese and the Russians are working on their own fighter interceptors either of which could conceivably find their way into the Iranian order of battle. The Raptor still rules the roost but these Chinese and Russian interceptors are designed to find and take on the F-35. They don’t have to be as stealthy, they don’t have to be as sophisticated they just have to be able to find the F-35 and fire enough missiles at it to shoot it down.
The Raptor was prevented from being sold outside the United States by a vote in the Senate and the Obey amendment but earlier this year the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee directed the Air Force secretary to conduct a study of the costs associated with procuring at least another 194 F-22s. That report is due next month. The bill requiring the report makes special mention of potential sale of the aircraft to allies;
In light of growing threats to U.S. air superiority as a result of adversaries closing the technology gap and increasing demand from allies and partners for high performance, multi-role aircraft to meet evolving and worsening global security threats, the committee believes that such proposals are worthy of further exploration.”
Israel wanted the Raptor before it was barred form foreign sale. The new President elect has shown he isn’t one to be held back by the policies of the previous president, political conventions or even a conventional method of thinking. The Middle East of today has the most advanced Russian anti aircraft missile systems protecting the skies of Syria and Iran. Israel needs the Raptor even more than it needs the F-35 and now it’s possible that they might actually be able to get it.