More F-35s Heading to Israel – The Middle Eastern State of Israel became the first country to select the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II though the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales process nearly 13 years ago, and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) received its initial F-35A in a ceremony at the defense and aerospace giant’s Fort Worth, Texas facility.
It was announced earlier this week that the Israeli government has approved the purchase of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets in a deal worth $3 billion.
The deal, which is set to be finalized in the coming months, will be financed through American military aid to Israel as well as that of the maker of the plane, Lockheed Martin, and the maker of the aircraft’s engine, Pratt & Whitney.
“The new agreement will ensure the continuation of cooperation between American companies and Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft parts,” the joint statement read.
Growing the Fleet
The companies also committed to involving Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft components sold.
Joshua Shani, CEO of Lockheed Martin Israel, told The Times of Israel that the company was “honored that the Israeli government has announced its intent to purchase additional F-35s.”
The additional 25 aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin will bring the number of F-35s in service with the Israeli Air Force to 75. It will increase the fleet size by 50 percent.
“The Israeli Air Force has proven its capabilities in critical operations with the 116th and 140th squadrons, and we are looking forward to building on this strong performance,” Shani added. “With a combination of stealth, sensor fusion, and electronic warfare, the fifth-generation F-35 will ensure the Israeli Air Force stays ahead of current and evolving threats to protect its borders and citizens for decades to come.”
The deal to expand the Israeli arsenal comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Iran, which is considered Israel’s greatest enemy. The IAF was the first to employ the F-35 in combat, and it has previously used the advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter to shoot down Iranian drones, while the Israeli government has threatened to carry out a long-range strike on Iranian nuclear targets.
Israel has also sought to counter Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria, and on Sunday conducted an airstrike on the Syrian city of Homs, one of hundreds of strikes on government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years.
A Trusted Partner
Israel has remained a trusted partner, and in March, IAF pilots participated in the U.S. Air Force’s Red Flag-23-2 with the F-35I Adir – the Israeli-specific variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. It was the first time the F-35I was employed in the long-running joint exercises.
The F-35I Adir (meaning “Mighty One” in Hebrew) is a variant built especially for Israel that features a domestically produced electronic warfare system (EWS). It was designed to ensure that the IAF’s F-35s would retain their edge over other aircraft throughout the service life of the airframes, and it added advanced sensors and countermeasures. In addition, IAF pilots are equipped with a locally developed helmet-mounted display that utilizes datalink functionality specific to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The F-35 is arguably the best fighter in the world, and 25 more will soon be flying over the skies of Israel – a fact that won’t be welcome in Tehran.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.