IDF officials have long believed that F-35s would be their final conventionally manned fighter, but a policy shift favoring additional F-15 squadrons has gained considerable support in Israeli defense circles, Israel Hayom reported Thursday.
The IAF chief of staff, Israel's defense minister and the director general of Israel's Defense Ministry must review the IAF's report on the matter before a decision on whether to formally strike a deal with Boeing is made, the Israel Hayom report indicates. A decision is expected before the year is out.
Support for purchasing the Israel Advanced F-15s already exists within the Israeli defense establishment, but that is unlikely to keep powerful lobbies in Washington and Israel from seeking to influence the decision. Notably, there have been talks about the possibility of buying additional F-35s from Lockheed Martin as a way to appease the Maryland-based company in the event Israel does get back into business with Boeing, Israeli Hayom noted, especially since the "IA F-15" will be equipped with some stealth characteristics. Boeing and Lockheed are rival defense contractors that compete for many of the same government contracts.
Israel and Boeing have not struck a deal on fighter aircraft since older F-15s were acquired decades ago. The new deal, though, is likely to feature IA F-15s as just one component of a much larger package of aircraft including aerial tankers and military choppers.
Notably, Israeli officials were reported to have found Boeing's ability to provide a variety of rotary aircraft options attractive. The CH-47 Chinook and V-22 Osprey would likely be included in a deal between Israel and Boeing, Israel Hayom noted. As far as aerial refuelers go, Israel would likely end up procuring Boeing's recently unveiled KC-46 Pegasus tankers, which are modelled on its 767 passenger aircraft.
In sum, the deal is rumored to be valued around $11 billion once the ink on the contract dries.
Interestingly, a report has surfaced indicating that Boeing also wants to sell the US Air Force new "F-15X" aircraft, Defense One reported July 18. The Drive disputed Defense One's report, arguing July 26 that it was the US Air Force pressing Boeing on developing the mysterious plane — indeed, The Drive reports that USAF has pushed for it over the last 18 months, but talks have been held in closely guarded secrecy.
Like the IA F-15, the F-15X is touted as both completely new and derived from the time-tested F-15 airframe.
The US Air Force is worried about spooking Lockheed Martin, just like the IDF. The F-15X "would need to be non-disruptive to the larger F-35 procurement initiative. If anything else, it had to be seen as complementary to the F-35, not as an alternative to it," the Drive noted, citing sources familiar with the matter. The F-35 may not become the "one-size-fits-all" jet the Air Force once hoped, The Drive report says, a fact that is evidently not lost on service officials.