The US government has agreed to allow the air force to install Israeli-produced radio and data link systems onboard the F-35 stealth fighter aircraft. As revealed in the report of the US Congressional Research Service, which IsraelDefense has obtained, this commitment represents the first significant US waiver with regards to the installation of Israeli systems onboard the advanced fighter aircraft.
The use of advanced radio and data link systems will provide the aircraft with greater immunity to deliberate jamming of its communication systems.
The report further reveals that if Israel were to procure more than 20 F-35s, the US government would consider allowing the country to add “black boxes” to the aircraft’s Electronic Warfare (EW) system, which would present unique Israeli-developed capabilities to the system.
The US has so far refused to allow the air force even partial access to the fighter's EW system. A key issue which has yet to be solved, and is not mentioned in the report, is the US demand that Israel send the aircraft to undergo heavy maintenance at a European maintenance center.
According to the aircraft directorate in the US, all the countries in the Middle East and in Europe that procure the aircraft will transfer the aircraft to undergo heavy maintenance (Grade D) at a European center. The Israeli Air Force has informed the US that this demand is unacceptable, and it will insist that all maintenance grades be carried out in Israel.
A source close to the issue said that the US understands Israel’s special needs regarding this issue; however, a formal decision has yet to be made. “We would be happy if the regional maintenance center were to be established here. However, we will not send aircraft beyond Israel's borders,” said the source.