NEW YORK — The Israeli government has signed a contract to buy American-made F-35 stealth fighter jets on Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the purchase would significantly strengthen Israel's military, but gave no other details.

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Under the contract signed in New York on Thursday by Ehud Shani, director general of the Defense Ministry, Israel will get 20 of the warplanes for nearly $3 billion and will receive the jets in 2016. It has an option for 75 more.

A fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35 is said to be capable of evading all radars and anti-aircraft missile systems.

“The F-35 will provide Israel with continued air superiority and help retain its qualitative military edge in the region,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last month. “The plane will provide the air force with improved capabilities in ensuring Israel’s security when operating near and far away.”

The first batch will have a configuration similar to those used by the US Air Force, with minor changes. The second batch, likely to arrive in the second half of the decade, will already be designed according to Israeli specifications and include locally-designed and manufactured systems.

The one Israeli company currently involved in the F-35’s production is Elbit Systems Ltd., whose helmet will be used by JSF pilots.

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