Despite tensions with US, Israel to purchase second batch of F-35 fighter jets

The move came after the previous Israeli government decided that the air force may buy up to three F-35 squadrons.

Three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters can be seen flying over Edwards Air Force Base (photo credit: REUTERS)
Three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters can be seen flying over Edwards Air Force Base
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Diplomatic tensions aside, military ties between Israel and the US seem to be on track with Tuesday’s announcement that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had finalized the terms of Israel’s purchase of a second squadron of F-35 fighter jets.
Signaling a milestone in Israel’s upgrade to a fifth generation warplane, the F-35 will ensure Israel’s regional qualitative edge in the first quarter of the 21st century, a period that will be fraught with a variety of developing security threats, defense chiefs have said.
Officials in the IAF view the transition to the F-35 as a leap forward in its ability to stealthily detect and strike targets, launch electronic warfare attacks, network with other platforms and significantly expand the IAF’s strike range.
Israel has sought to receive the fighter jet with its own command and control, weapons systems, and electronic warfare specifications.
Previous Israeli government decided that the air force may acquire up to three F-35 squadrons.
The first batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets is due to begin arriving in Israel in 2016, and 19 jets will arrive in Israel by 2018. From 2019, the jets that will make up the second squadron are expected to begin arriving.
The purchase of the second squadron is conditional on the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Defense Acquisitions, defense sources said.
The IAF will set up its first F-35 squadron in the Nevatim air force base in the Negev, which currently houses F-16 squadrons and C-130 Hercules transport planes.
Former air force chief Maj.- Gen. (res.) Ido Nehushtan chose Nevatim due to the advantages it offers in terms of infrastructure, training space and the IDF’s plans to move significant resources into southern Israel.
In 2011, the then-commander of the air base, Brig.-Gen.
Ronen Samhi, said the arrival of the F-35 will turn Nevatim “into a strategic base forming a powerful battle component.”
Israel signed a $2.75 billion deal to purchase a squadron of 19 F-35s from Lockheed Martin in 2012, and is expected to order another 75 jets.