The Israeli Defense Ministry has signed a deal to purchase an additional 14 F-35 fighter jets from the United States. Each jet costs $110 million.
The defense deal was initially approved in November 2014 with a much higher number of jets being purchased by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. However, the Ministerial MIlitary Procurement Committee lowered the approved purchase number, citing budgetary constraints.
The newest part of the deal between Israel and the US will bring the total number of jets purchased back to the amount originally sought by the army.
According to the deal, 14 of the Lockheed-Martin made jets will be delivered to Israel with an option to purchase an additional 17 platforms in the future. The goal of the Defense Ministry is to ensure that Israel eventually receives 50 of the newest type of fighter jets in order to maintain two squadrons of 25 jets each.
The current deal brings the total amount of planes that Israel has purchased from the US to 33. following a purchase of 19 of the jets On October 7th, 2010, Israeli Ministry of Defense Director General (Maj. Gen. Ret.) Udi Shani purchased 19 F-35A jets to be used by the Israeli Air Force.
The purchase of the planes promotes a further sharing of technology and knowledge between allies, as well as opportunities in manufacturing for Israel’s sophisticated defense industry. According to the deal, Israeli combat systems and avionics will be directly installed into the planes by Lockheed-Martin.
With the IAF planning to decommission its fleet of aging F-15s and F-16s, the F-35 will continue to ensure the country’s global competitiveness.
According to Aharon Marmarosh, head of the Defense Ministry delegation in the US, Israel is set to receive the first two planes by 2016, and the remainder no later than 2021. The IAF has already decided upon a Hebrew name for the newest addition to its fleet. It will be called the Adir, (Hebrew for “Awesome”).
Currently, the only countries to have fully functional test models of the F-35 are the US, UK and Australia, while pilots from other partner countries are training on the planes in US facilities in a specialized training program.
Israel is one of 12 countries around the world who is taking part in the Joint Strike Fighter Program. According to Lockheed-Martin, the program was designed in “an effort to create an exportable 5th Generation fighter with three variants…The participating countries each contributed to development of the requirements, design and test program, drawing on the aerospace expertise of a global network of allies. The aircraft are now in production, with companies around the world building components and support equipment.”
Other partnering countries include Canada, Denmark, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and the Republic of Korea.
Israeli companies such as Elbit Systems, and Israel Aerospace Industries won contracts to work on specific systems and elements of the planes, and will help return hundreds of millions of shekels back into the Israeli economy.