Israeli Military Set to Shut F-16 Squadron, Add Another Iron Dome Battery

F-16C fighter jets are being replaced by F-35 planes, the first of which are set to arrive by the end of 2016.

AP

The Israeli air force is set to shutter a squadron of F-16C fighter jets in early 2017, once the first batch of F-35 planes arrive from the United States.

On the flip side, the Israel Defense Forces is planning to add another battery of the Iron Dome system – which intercepts short-range rockets – in the coming years. In addition, it will introduce the Magic Wand system (also known as David’s Sling), which is designed to intercept medium-range rockets.

Other F-16C squadrons may be closed in the future, but according to a senior IDF officer, this will depend on the receipt of additional F-35s.

In recent years, the IDF has shut down several air force squadrons, including one of assault helicopters and another of fighter jets. One of the squadrons already shut down, at the Nevatim air base, will also be replaced with an F-35 squadron once the planes arrive.

The first F-35s are expected to arrive in Israel in about a year. Earlier this year, the Defense Ministry announced it had signed a deal to buy another 14 F-35s, on top of a deal signed in 2010 for the purchase of 19 of the Lockheed Martin jets. One of those 19 jets will serve as an experimental plane. Each F-35 is expected to cost about $110 million.

The army is also planning to close three artillery commands and five reserve tank battalions as part of its multiyear plan (known as Gideon). In addition, the Arava territorial brigade, which is part of Southern Command, will be eliminated, as will a territorial brigade in Northern Command.