Israel has approved the purchase of a third squadron of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter jets, which includes 25 additional aircraft in a deal worth approximately $3 billion.
The deal will expand its current F-35 fleet from 50 to 75 and is set to be financed through US defense aid to Israel, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement on July 2, 2023. This will make Israel the country with the largest fleet of F-35s outside the US.
Additionally, cooperation between American companies and Israeli defense industries will continue in the production of aircraft parts. Both Lockheed Martin and US-based engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney have agreed to involve Israel in the process.
Previously, Israeli companies were already involved with the development of technologies connected to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program focused on the development and deployment of the F-35.
The helmet for this fighter jet is produced by a joint venture between Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins, while state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) stated in June 2022 that it was scheduled to produce a total of 811 pairs of F-35A wings by 2034 in deals worth around $2 billion.
The F-35 fighter jet, also known by its Hebrew name “Adir” (Mighty in English), has been in the Israeli Air Forces fleet since June 22, 2016. It is recognized as the world’s most advanced fighter jet and Israel is the only country in the Middle East to operate it.
The announcement of the deal comes amid growing tensions with Iran, which is continuing to develop its ballistic missile program despite opposition from the US and Israel.
Israel previously used F-35 jets to shoot down Iranian kamikaze drones and missiles in November 2022.