Israel has officially requested an additional 25 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets from the US to create a third squadron of the aircraft in the Israeli Air Force.
According to a statement published by the Israel Defense Ministry on September 3, 2023, the country has submitted an official letter of request to the US Department of Defense F-35 Joint Program Office. The contract is estimated to be worth approximately $3 billion and will be funded by US military aid to Israel.
The number of F-35 jets owned by the Israeli forces would increase to 75 following the agreement, which includes support and maintenance.
As part of the initial contract between the governments, the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and engine maker Pratt & Whitney committed to involving Israeli companies in the production of F-35 aircraft sold to equipped countries.
The F-35 fighter jet, also known by its Hebrew name “Adir” (“Mighty” in English), has been in the Israeli Air Force fleet since June 22, 2016. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to operate it and was also the first one in the world to use it in a combat mission.
The first three fighters of the new squadron are expected to arrive in Israel in 2027 and will continue to be delivered at a rate of three aircraft per year.
The deal comes amid growing tensions with Iran, which is continuing to develop its ballistic missile program despite opposition from the US and Israel.
In 2022, Israel used F-35 jets to shoot down Iranian kamikaze drones.