With the sale of the F-35 to the UAE, the Trump Administration considers compensating Israel with the F-22, which, unlike other US jets, has been sold to no other country.
By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel
News reports in the last few days indicate that the Trump administration has approved the sale of F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, which “sees first, shoots first and leaves the arena at Mach 2 speed.” As good as it sounds, however, it’s not certain that it will happen, the magazine Israel Defense reported Tuesday.
According to the Saudi-owned Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, quoting unnamed “senior sources in Tel Aviv,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s lightning one-day visit to Israel last week was to tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz that “President Donald Trump has approved the sale of F-22 fighter jets and precision-guided bombs.”
While Israel is looking to replace its aging fleet of American-made F-16 fighters that will complement its new fleet of F-35 stealth bombers, there are several key questions as to whether or not the US could actually supply the F-22, which the Senate voted to stop producing in 2009. The USAF received the last of its 195 aircraft in 2011.
Although Lockheed-Martin stopped manufacturing the jet almost a decade ago, the production equipment has been kept in case a decision was made to order new jets, which were deemed unnecessary at the time because no direct conflict was expected in the post-Cold War world.
The jet was designed with top-secret technology that reporter Blake Stilwell said “makes the F-22’s radar signature closer to that of a bumblebee.” Worried that the advanced tech would fall into the hands of America’s enemies, U.S. legislators passed the “Obey Amendment” in 2009 to ban all foreign sales of the F-22, including to any American ally.
Therefore, in order to not just resume production but also export the F-22, the legislation needs to be changed, and that cannot happen until after the new administration takes office in 2021.
Restarting the production lines is expected to cost billions of dollars before the first plane is produced, and it would not be delivered for years.
An industry source told Israel Defense that “the matter does not seem practical. In order to deliver F-22 aircraft to Israel, a squadron of the American Air Force will have to be dismantled, because the Raptor has not been manufactured for several years.”
Should it be obtained, the F-22 would fit nicely into the Israel Air Force’s trio of the most advanced American fighter jets: the F-15 in its advanced models is primarily designed to carry a large amount of armament for massive and accurate ground attacks. The F-35 uses stealth to invisibly penetrate enemy radar. And the third, the F-22, is designed to maintain air superiority that would allow the IAF to conduct air battles and shoot down enemy aircraft.
The Raptor entered service with the US Air Force in 2002, and in September 2014 it participated in attacking ISIS targets in Syria and on other fronts. It is known to be deployed at USAF bases in the Gulf. Many of the details about how the Raptor operates and performs remain top secret.