Israeli Air Force to Buy Refueling Aircraft, 25 More F-35 Fighter Jets

Amos Harel
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An Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jet landing at the Nevatim Air Force base.
An Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jet landing at the Nevatim Air Force base.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Amos Harel

The ministerial committee for Israel Defense Forces procurement on Tuesday approved a substantial portion of the plans submitted by the Air Force, to be paid for with the security assistance from the United States. The first stage approved was the purchase of four refueling aircraft and another squadron – Israel’s third – of 25 F-35 fighter planes.

The committee discussion was a continuation of a security cabinet discussion last week, in which a general approval was granted for purchases totaling $9.4 billion from the U.S. military funding, most of it for the air force.

The process of getting approval for the procurement plans was delayed for months because of the lack of a state budget. The IDF itself contributed to the delay because it had difficulty making a decision on how many types of planes and helicopters it needs.

The purchase of the Boeing KC46 refueling aircraft had been deemed urgent. A decision was also made on the force’s mix of aircraft, leading to the decision to acquire another squadron of F-35s, made by Lockheed Martin.

Within a few years, the air force will have 75 F-35s. The IDF also plans to purchase another squadron of Boeing’s F-15s. However, this model is being upgraded by the manufacturer and the army prefers to wait until the improvements are completed.

The ministerial committee also approved the purchase of precise offensive armaments for the air force, and a relatively broad array of interceptor missiles for its defense systems, including the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3, along with an upgrade of these systems’ detection capabilities.

However, no decision has yet been made about which new assault helicopter to buy to replace the veteran Yasur choppers. There are three options: To purchase the newest K model of the Yasur (Sikorsky) helicopter made by Lockheed; the Chinook helicopter made by Boeing, or a small quantity of one of these, along with Boeing’s V-22 Osprey, which combines functions of a helicopter and an airplane. This decision will be made shortly by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, after which it will return to the committee for its approval.

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