Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have agreed to a deal under which Israel will purchase a second squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft.
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The deal is subject to approval by the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Security Affairs and by the government.
Israel has already purchased 19 of the aircraft, at a cost of $2.75 billion. The first two of those F-35s are due to arrive in Israel by the end of 2016 and the rest should be delivered by 2018.
The second squadron of planes will number at least 20.
Infrastructure is already being built at the Nevatim airbase, where the aircraft are to be housed. The air force says that in the coming year it will begin establishing the new squadron, with the training of Israeli air crews to follow.
The air force has said that it wanted another F-35 squadron. Senior air force officials said that the new fighter jet, known as the Adir in the IDF, will sharply strengthen the air force’s capabilities. The general staff also supported the proposal.
The Walla news site reported this morning on the agreement reached between Hagel and Ya’alon.
Next week, the Pentagon’s head of the F-35 project will visit Israel to inaugurate production of the F-35 wings. An agreement between Israel Aircraft Industries and Lockheed Martin calls for IAI to produce 811 pairs of aircraft wings for the U.S. firm.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have also agreed in principle that the company will manufacture 43 more F-35 aircraft according to a formula that is expected to lower the aircraft frame cost by 3 1/2%. The pricing details in the accord should be publicized when the contract is finalized. Two of these aircraft will be designated for Israel, as part of the 19 that were already purchased. These planes were acquired with the U.S. aid that is transferred to Israel annually.
The first planes designated for the second squadron are expected to start arriving in 2019. The Defense Ministry says the previous government concluded that Israel had the potential to purchase aircraft for three squadrons.