F-35 fighter jets .
(photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN)
Israel is in talks with the US about a possible acquisition of a squadron of F-35B fighter jets.
Discussions over a new US decade-long defense package for Israel, starting in 2016, have expanded to include the possible acquisition of F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing jets. The story was first reported by Walla.
Israel has bought 33 F-35A conventional take-off fighter aircraft, and has an option to buy 17 more, for two F-35 squadrons.
According to Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-35, the B variant “is designed to operate from austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near frontline combat zones. It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and US Secretary of State Ash Carter opened talks in October on the defense package Washington will offer Israel over the next decade in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal reached in July.
Israel is keen on increasing the IDF’s offensive capabilities and maintaining its qualitative edge in light of increased regional threats, Ya’alon said.
In April, Lockheed Martin officials visiting Israel said the fifth generation F-35 multi-role planes will begin arriving in Israel at the end of 2016, with the first two arriving at Nevatim Air Base, near Beersheba, next December.
The officials said Israel would be the first to receive the jets outside of the United States.
F-35B Rolls-Royce propulsion systems and a swiveling engine enables the short takeoff/vertical landing mode, according to the defense firm.
The aircraft are stationed at the first operational F-35B base, Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Arizona, and Marine Corp Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, where F-35B training is taking place.