Aerial Warfare

Israel Ministry of Defense Launches Procurement of Third F-35I Squadron

Israel Ministry of Defense Launches Procurement of Third F-35I Squadron
Israel Ministry of Defense Launches Procurement of Third F-35I Squadron

Israel Ministry of Defense has initiated the process to acquire a third squadron of “Adir” (Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II) aircraft, further bolstering the capabilities of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). With the approval of Defense Minister Yoav Galant and the Ministry of Defense’s Director General, Major General (ret.) Eyal Zamir, the Ministry’s procurement delegation in the United States has officially submitted a Request for Procurement (LOR) to the U.S. HAF 35 Directorate (JPO). The F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office (JPO) leads the life-cycle program management of the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C; the fifth-generation joint strike fighter (JSF) air system of choice for the U.S., international partners and foreign military sales customers. This paves the way for the approval and eventual signing of the agreement in the upcoming months.

Under this procurement, the Ministry of Defense will purchase 25 F-35 aircraft from the U.S. government, with Lockheed Martin as the manufacturer, and comprehensive support and maintenance included. Upon the completion of this transaction, the Israeli Air Force’s fleet of the world’s most advanced stealth aircraft will expand to a total of 75 F-35s. The delivery of these aircraft to the IDF is set to commence in 2027, at a rate of three planes per year. The estimated value of this deal stands at approximately $3 billion, funded through American aid. As per the initial agreement between the governments, Lockheed Martin and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney will continue to collaborate with Israeli companies in the production of F-35 planes destined for equipped countries.

Israel Defense Forces F-35I Adir Fighter Jets
Israel Defense Forces F-35I (Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II) Adir Fighter Jets. (Photo by IDF)

This new agreement solidifies the commitment of American companies to engage in ongoing cooperation with Israeli industries in the production of aircraft components. The procurement of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft by Israel represents the government’s commitment to enhancing the capabilities of the Israeli Air Force, operating them under the designation F-35I “Adir.” The Israeli Air Force marked a historic milestone in May 2018 when Major General Amikam Norkin, Israeli Air Force Commander, announced that Israel had become the first nation to employ the F-35 in combat. In November 2020, Israel took delivery of an F-35I testbed aircraft, a unique addition to the Israeli Air Force’s fleet, as it was the only testbed F-35 delivered to a foreign air force outside the U.S.

On 24 March, 3 additional F-35Is landed in Nevatim Air Base, bringing the country’s total fleet to 33. In June, F-35I had been able to conduct simulated strikes on Iran without the need for mid-air refueling. On 12 November, 3 additional F-35Is landed in Israel, earmarked to join the 140 Squadron (Golden Eagle), bringing the country’s total fleet to 36. As of November 13, 2022, the Israeli Air Force boasts a fleet of 36 F-35s in service, including the testbed stationed at the Flight Test Center at Tel Nof Airbase. Three squadrons, namely the 140th, 116th, and 117th, operate these advanced aircraft from Nevatim Airbase. On 6 January, 2023, the U.S. Department of Defense restricted use of the F-35I Adir fighter to any persons who have a foreign passport due to IS (information security) concerns.

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