The American Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is preparing to publish 80 massive tenders for the construction of regional maintenance centers across Europe for the advanced F-35 jetfighter - the stealth. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs, which will be sold to European militaries in the future, will receive their periodic maintenance at the new centers.
The new opportunity has attracted Israeli defense firms, which have been preparing their bids. Last week, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan the program executive officer for the JSF visited Israel and met Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) representatives. Bogdan revealed JSF’s intention to publish the maintenance center tenders in a month.
Bogdan told the defense officials and the head of the IDF’s Procurement and Production Directorate, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zucker that the tenders for the maintenance centers will be completed by the beginning of 2017.
As part of the process, the JSF program will ask each country involved in the F-35’s development and may purchase the warplane to make an offer for the maintenance of the sensitive, secretive systems that are onboard the most expensive plane in history.
A senior security source told “Globes” that the Israeli defense firms if they are granted even a part of the tenders stand to gain hundreds of millions of dollars: “We are talking about a plane that is at the beginning of its lifespan and is intended to serve the air forces of many Western nations for 30 or 40 years. The company that wins this process assures a steady volume of work for a very long period of time, while working in close coordination with Lockheed Martin.”
The Americans have previously led a similar process for the development of two maintenance workshops in Europe Italy was selected to service the airframe and Turkey was chosen to build a supply center for the advanced warplane’s engines.
The two centers will serve the F-35s operated by European air forces when they require heavy maintenance.
Israel is the first country in the world outside the US to operate the advanced fighter jet. As part of the talks between the Israeli air force and Ministry of Defense with Lockheed Martin and the JSF, senior Israeli defense officials expressed their strong objections to the F-35s being serviced in a foreign country.
Concerns were raised that such an arrangement would expose the secretive systems which are based on Israeli companies’ unique developments. In accordance with the objection, the Israeli defense establishment came to an agreement with US officials that Israel would receive an exemption and be allowed to build its own service centers airframe maintenance would be conducted by the IAF; over the next few months, engine maintenance will be given to either IAI or Bet Shemesh Engines after a bidding process.
Israeli companies are already taking part in the JSF program: IAI launched a new, advanced assembly line to manufacture 811 pairs of wings for the jets; Elbit will supply its next-generation pilot helmets; and, Cyclone has won the rights to produce certain parts of the F-35.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 17, 2015
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