Israel orders 17 additional F-35 jets, expects first batch by year's end

 F-35 © Daniel Hughes
Israel will order 17 more advanced F-35 fighter jets from the United States than previously planned, the Prime Minister’s Office announced after the security cabinet voted unanimously to approve the multi-billion dollar purchase.

With the latest addition, the aviation branch of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will have a total fleet of 50 F-35 jets pending delivery, the PM's office said. 

The first pair of F-35s, the Israeli version, which is nicknamed Adir (Hebrew for 'mighty' or 'glorious'), is scheduled to be delivered by American pilots to Nevatim air force base in 2-3 weeks, Haaretz reported

Although the government failed to disclose the price of the contract, F-35 produced by Lockheed Martin are estimated as costing about $110 million a unit. Overall, 17 F-35 fighter jets will likely cost Israel some NIS 6.6 billion ($1.7 billion), in addition to maintenance costs, The Times of Israel reports.

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The jets have been purchased as part of a military aid agreement between the United States and Israel. Earlier this year the two countries agreed on a new aid package to Tel Aviv worth $3.8 billion, which is to be allocated annually through 2028.

Israel will begin training with the new planes immediately, but it could take “more than a few months” for the first planes to be operational, a senior Israeli air force official told AP. He would not elaborate on what missions F-35s would be used but said the jets are expected to meet all of Israel's needs and would enhance Israel's ability to act freely in hostile airspace.

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Israel signed the first contracts to buy 19 F-35s in 2010. Fourteen more were ordered in February 2015. Sunday’s announcement brings the total of F-35s ordered by Israel to 50 jets.