Tuesday, December 10, 2013

US sees strong interest in F-35 among Gulf states

An interesting dilemma for the US:
Strong demand from Gulf countries for Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet has prompted Washington to grapple with the thorny question about releasing the jet to the region sooner than expected, a senior U.S. defense official said.

Washington has already approved sales of the new stealth fighter to a range of allies, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel, but sales to the Gulf require a deeper review given U.S. policy guidelines that call for Israel to maintain a qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

Talk about selling the plane to the United Arab Emirates and other U.S. allies in the Gulf came into the open during the Dubai air show last month, with potential buyers weighing whether to buy existing planes or wait for the U.S. government to release the new radar-evading F-35. 
Obviously the F-35 is an export model, given the sales outside the original partners in the program.  However, one of the pillars of US foreign policy in the Middle East has been to ensure Israel has a qualitative edge in weaponry.  So selling to other Gulf states requires some decision making that has to take that into consideration.

On the plus side, of course, is that more sales means a lower cost per aircraft for everyone.
Decisions about releasing sensitive technologies for sale to foreign countries are made by the State Department in consultation with the Pentagon and other government agencies.

"Eventually we're going to have to make a decision. We have a very structured process in place for doing that. And it takes a little bit of time," said the official. "But we are going to have to make decisions on a tighter timeline than we thought."
Israel gets their first F-35 in 2016.  My guess is there won't be a decision on sales to the Gulf states anytime before that.

Why the sudden interest?
"The interest in the airplane is coming about simply because it's getting more mature and people are finally realizing that it's really going to happen," said the official. 
Which means that future sales outside the Gulf states remains a solid possiblity as well.


No comments:

Post a Comment