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Agreement for an additional 25 F-35I for Israel

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has signed an intergovernmental agreement with the United States for the delivery of an additional 25 Lockheed Martin F-35I Adir multirole aircraft.

On Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the Israeli Ministry of Defense announced the signing of an intergovernmental agreement (Letter of Offer and Acceptance, LOA) with the United States for the delivery of an additional 25 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft in the Israeli F-35I Adir version. The media reported on March 29 this year about the approval of the multi-billion dollar arms package for Israel, consisting of these aircraft and their associated aerial munitions.

Photos: Israeli Ministry of Defense

The agreement, estimated to be worth approximately 3 billion USD, was signed in Washington during a visit on May 28 this year by a delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Defense led by Brigadier General (Ret.) Mishel Ben Baruch. During the visit, they met with partners from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the White House administration.

The agreement includes technical and operational support. Deliveries of the first batch of aircraft are expected in 2028 at a rate of 3-5 units per year. The financing of the agreement will be largely covered by funds from the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. The fund is a tool of the U.S. defense policy known as Qualitative Military Edge (QME), implemented since 2008, which ensures support for the State of Israel in maintaining a technological advantage in the Middle East region.

According to the original agreement between the governments, the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the engine producer Pratt & Whitney have committed to involving the Israeli industry in the production of F-35 aircraft sold to the U.S. armed forces and other countries.

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant: The procurement of the third F-35 squadron reflects the strength of the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States. This capability has a significant impact on arenas both near and far. At time when some of our adversaries aim to undermine our ties with our greatest ally, we only further strengthen our alliance. This sends a powerful message to our enemies across the region. I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to our partners in the U.S. Department of Defense and the wider U.S. government for reinforcing and ensuring Israel’s edge and strategic capabilities.

Director General of the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Eyal Zamir: Initiated by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the IDF before the war and approved by the Minister of Defense, the signing of the third F-35 squadron agreement concludes a significant procurement process and was accelerated during it. The Adir program and other initiatives we are advancing will help ensure the continued readiness of the IDF and the Air Force for multi-threat challenges in the coming years. We are grateful to the U.S. government, whose senior representatives we met last week in Washington, for supporting Israel’s security needs and maintaining its qualitative and technological edge for years to come.

According to information from the American newspaper The Washington Post at the end of March this year, the arms package dedicated along with the aircraft includes 1,800 general-purpose Mark 84 bombs weighing 909 kg (2,000 pounds) and 500 general-purpose Mark 82 bombs weighing 227 kg (500 pounds).

On April 1 of this year, the American magazine Politico reported, citing sources in Congress, that President Joe Biden’s administration is considering selling up to 50 Boeing F-15EX Eagle II multirole aircraft to Israel, along with precision air-to-air and air-to-ground missile ammunition. Previously, the discussion was about 25 units. Currently, the progress on this matter is unknown.

Recently, Congress approved packages for Israel that include 155mm M107 and M795 high-explosive artillery shells, 120mm M830A1 HEAT-MP-T tank ammunition, and Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV). These packages are largely funded by the USA.

The USA continues to sell and co-finance arms for Israel despite increasing international criticism of the Jewish state for its military actions in the Gaza Strip. Recently, France excluded the Israeli defense industry from Eurosatory 2024, the largest defense and security international exhibition in Europe, and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh for war crimes.

On July 2, 2023, the Israeli Ministry of Defense announced that it had approved the purchase of an additional 25 F-35I aircraft, which will allow the formation of a third squadron within the Israeli Air Corps (Heyl Ha’Avir). The total number of Israeli Adirs will be increased to 75 units.

Last year’s announcement ends a saga lasting 2.5 years, primarily due to the ongoing political crisis that has affected Israel in recent years. Initially, the plan to purchase a large package of American arms and equipment worth 9 billion USD, which included additional F-35I fighter jets or Boeing’s promoted F-15EX Eagle II, was approved on May 8, 2021, by the National Security Cabinet (HaKabinet HaMedini-Bithoni).

The additional Adirs will be assigned to the reactivated 117th Squadron First Jet at Nevatim Airbase in the Negev Desert, which was reformed on July 1, 2021, less than a year after being disbanded. Initially, the squadron will train F-35I pilots, and in the future, it will be fully reequipped with these aircraft as the third operational squadron.

Currently, according to data from the beginning of this year, the Israeli Air Corps has 39 out of the originally ordered 50 F-35I aircraft. They are operated by two squadrons: the 140th Squadron Golden Eagle (operational readiness on December 6, 2017) and the 116th Squadron Lions of the South (operational readiness on August 6, 2020), both based at Nevatim Airbase.

They have participated in operational flights over Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, unofficially over Iran, and recently over the Gaza Strip. Ultimately, the aircraft ordered so far will be assigned to both operational squadrons, except for one unit delivered in August 2020, which is based at Tel Nof Airbase in the Central District for trial integration of domestically produced equipment and armaments – this is the only experimental F-35 outside the USA.


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