Delays in the production of the F-35 joint strike fighter are forcing Israel to consider postponing the contract signing with the US for the fifth-generation stealth fighter.

Israel earlier decided to sign the letter of agreement (LOA) with the Pentagon by the end of March 2010, according to The Jerusalem Post.

On 7 March, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) chief of general staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi went to Washington to discuss the delays in the production of the JSF and how it will affect the IDF.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) will acquire nearly 100 F-35 to replace its aging F-16s.

Israel had planned to order its first squadron of 25 jets in the coming months, and procure another 50 by the end of the decade.

IAF officers are now demanding a review of the F-35 procurement plans, and considering the purchase of additional F-15Is made by Boeing, due to the delay in F-35 production.

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US Air Force secretary Michael Donley last week said that the production of the F-35 would be delayed by two years and would cost more than the $130m initially expected.

The F-35 jet, scheduled to become operational in 2013, was put on hold by the Pentagon on the issue of serious problems with the contract.