F-35s for GCC: Not Never, Just Not Now

The notion that some senior leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council stayed home because the US won’t sell F-35 fighters to them is unfounded, US officials said Thursday. In terms of munitions, “We are focusing on the near-term security” of the region, and the F-35 “cannot be a part of that,” a State Department official said. The simple reason is that F-35s are not yet operational in the US, and won’t be until this summer for the Marine Corps, which will only have a dozen of the jets to start. An industry official told Air Force Magazine the earliest a new F-35 customer could get in line to buy the fighter—behind partners and already-approved foreign military sales clients—is 2018, with deliveries not sooner than 2020, and that’s “if all the stars aligned” and there were no political hiccups attending the transfer. Instead, the State official pointed to remarks earlier this week by Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, who said in a teleconference with reporters that “we will be reviewing with our partners what types of capabilities are necessary to deal with the current challenges we face” from Iran and ISIS.