The U.S. Department of Defense has banned Israeli pilots with foreign passports from flying F-35 fighter jets out of concern for the security of the plane’s sensitive information.
According to The Jerusalem Post, this measure originates from the United States Department of Defense and intelligence authorities, who are fearful of sensitive information and technology being leaked to other nations. As a result, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had to accept this condition and gave up assigning pilots with foreign passports to the fifth-generation F-35I Adir aircraft.
Israel became the first country to select the F-35 through the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales process when a Letter of Agreement was signed in October 2010.
On June 22, 2016, the Israeli Air Force received the first F-35A Adir for Israel at a ceremony at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 factory. The Israeli Air Force declared its F-35 fleet operationally capable in December 2017, marking the completion of an intensive integration and training effort conducted at Nevatim AFB, Israel.
From utmost confidence to concern
The U.S. and Israel have always had a special relationship, through which they have forged a strategic alliance that has remained very strong over the decades. This «preferential treatment» was evidenced, for example, by the fact that Israel was always able to make the modifications it considered necessary to its US-origin aircraft to better adapt them to its particular requirements and needs, and the F-35 was no exception.
The F-35I has hardware and software elements of Israeli design, for which they obtained access to the aircraft’s «black boxes», something forbidden to most of the fighter’s operators, including several US partners in NATO, some of which co-financed the project. This is why this imposition on some of the IAF’s pilots is so surprising.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, U.S. government officials recently contacted the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to express concern that Chinese-made cars are being used in the Israeli military.
The US was concerned that Chinese cars with advanced multimedia systems could tag sensitive information from IDF officers’ cell phones and store it in a cloud network for use by Chinese intelligence.
However, an agreement was reached in this regard and the sensitive information was transferred to a protected and secure Israeli cloud system.