Authors: TheIndianSubcontinent News Agency
A delegation of Defense Ministry officials in the US signed a contract this weekend finalizing Israel's purchase of 14 additional Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35A fighter jets. The signature comes after a ministerial military procurement committee approved the deal last November, but cut the number of jets from the original number requested by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
According to the terms of the deal struck with the JSF Project team at the Pentagon, 14 jets, made by Lockheed Martin, will be delivered to Israel Air Force, with an option to purchase another 17 of the fifth generation platforms in the future.
The defense establishment is determined to ensure that the Israel Air Force eventually receives 50 F-35 jets, forming two squadrons of 25 jets each.
In September 2010, Israel bought 19 F-35s. The latest deal brings the total number of planes bought by Israel to 33, at an average cost of 110 million dollars per plane.
The second F-35 deal cost 2.82 billion dollars, and includes development and integration of Israeli combat systems and avionics in the plane.
The package deal also includes logistical support, fight and ground crew training, replacement parts, and maintenance in Israel.
The Defense Ministry said setting up maintenance facilities in Israel will inject tens of millions of shekels into the local defense industry.
Israel has in the past signed a cooperation agreement with Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney, worth 688 million dollars, to integrate Israeli defense industries in the making of the F-35 and its systems.
As a result, Elbit Systems won a contract to create helmet mounted displays for the F-35, and additional components, while Israel Aerospace Industries manufacture wings for the plane at its production line in central Israel.
Aharon Marmarosh, head of the Defense Ministry delegation in the US, said that the first two F-35 jets will land in Israel at the end of 2016, and the remainder of the planes will arrive by 2021.