Israel will purchase 17 more F-35 “Adir” Stealth fighter jets from the United States, at a cost of approximately $85 million apiece, after a unanimous vote of approval Sunday by the Security Cabinet.
The purchase will bring up Israel’s force to a total of 50 new F-35 fighter jets by the end of the next decade. The force is to be purchased with the military foreign aid received from the U.S. via the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed this past September.
A group of Israeli pilots has already been undergoing special training for the F-35 at a U.S. Air Force base in Arizona, with the first two F-35s set to arrive at Israel’s Nevatim Air Force base in the Negev desert by December 12.
Starting next year Israel is expected to receive six or seven of the new fighter jets each year until all 50 have arrived.
The entire force — two squadrons of 25 fighter jets each — are to be in place in the Jewish State by the early 2020s. Israel is expected to be the first nation in the world outside of the United States to receive the F-35 stealth fighter jet.
The high cost of flying the F-35, produced by Lockheed Martin, means that at least 50 percent of the training on the stealth fighter must be done in simulators.
Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems Ltd. recently won the tender to operate the F-35 new training center, which will be built at the Nevatim air base, Globes reported earlier this month. Construction of the new center will be completed in the coming year.
Lockheed Martin said in a statement that over the past three decades, Elbit “has acquired a great deal of experience in trainers and simulators, and is a world leader in high-tech display. Its advanced systems are in operational use by leading armies around the world.”
Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that F-35-related cooperation between Lockheed Martin and Israeli defense companies has reached $993 million. Elbit produces advanced pilot helmets for F-35 pilots, and Israel Aerospace Industries produces the aircraft’s wings.