The IAF is set to begin sending its pilots to train on F-35 stealth jets in the US and according to Brigadier General Tal Kalman, Head of IAF Staff, media criticism of the jet is not justified. The IAF is supposed to receive its first F-35s in December.
Speaking at a conference sponsored by Israel Defense and the Fisher Institute, Kalman said that many of the changes that took place in the Middle East in recent months had not been anticipated by the IDF. "Everything is changing," he said. "The only constant is change… In my estimate, change and instability are today's reality and that is the future we will experience in the coming years."
"The Middle East is in an arms race," Kalman explained. "Alongside the global jihad there are countries planning to implement arms deals in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Western and eastern weapons of the most advanced grade is entering the equation and being absorbed in the countries surrounding us: fighter jets, ballistic missiles and advanced surface-to-air missiles. The arms race, along with the instability, poses a very big threat."
"Today's enemy is tomorrow's friend and today's friend is tomorrow's enemy," he added. "There is potential for erosion of the IDF's and the IAF's qualitative advantage. The F-35 makes sense, in this context."
Kalman also pointed to the growing ballistic missile threat against Israel, and to an increase in the number and quality of missiles pointed at the Jewish state. "There are technologies that Israel has developed in recent years that provide solutions to the threats," he said, noting that the IAF's integrated defense combines Iron Dome, David's Sling and the Arrow missile.
The IAF's routine these days, he said, is "the campaign between the wars." Secret operational activity is ongoing at all times, but does not reach the intensity of actual war. The IAF "is more lethal than it was in the past and can attack thousands of targets daily, while producing intelligence with a low signature," he stated.
Kalman said that the F-35 is "better than other planes on the market and costs less than some of the other planes on the market. The plane's cost is decreasing and its maintenance concept will be inexpensive, and become less expensive over time."
Its software is "a leap" beyond that of other current jet fighters, he stated.
While media reports have said the F-35 is fault-ridden and a bad buy, Kalman said: "I read things that have a weak connection to reality. The project entails challenges and risks but I feel full confidence that the stealth jet will take the IAF a step forward… With the jet, the advantage of the IDF and IAF will grow without a doubt."