Israel will buy 25 F-35s from the United States, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced on Sunday, in a deal that increases Israel’s arsenal of these stealth fighters by 50%.
The F-35 is the most advanced combat aircraft in the world, and Israel is the only country in the Middle East to use it. The purchase, worth $3 billion, will increase Israel’s fleet of F-35 jets from 50 to 75, and will close in the coming months, according to the ministry.
The United Arab Emirates has long sought to buy F-35 jets from the US, but the Gulf nation’s ties to China have meant no deal has yet been finalized.
The fighter jet is considered the most advanced in the world, capable of collecting intelligence, penetrating deep into enemy territory, and engaging in dogfights. It is also known as a Joint Strike Fighter and, in Israel, by its Hebrew name Adir (Mighty), or Mighty.
The deal will be financed by US military aid to Israel and the plane’s maker, Lockheed Martin, and its engine maker, Pratt & Whitney, have pledged to involve Israeli companies in the production process.
“The new agreement will ensure the continuation of cooperation between American companies and Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft parts,” the statement said.
The expansion of the Israeli arsenal comes at a time of escalating tensions between Israel and Iran. Israel, which considers Iran, its biggest enemy, has previously used F-35 jets to shoot down Iranian drones and has threatened to carry out a long-range strike against Iranian nuclear targets.
Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon – a charge Iran denies – and is believed to be behind a series of attacks on Iranian nuclear experts and facilities inside Iran over the years.
Israel, which has tried to counter Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria, carried out an airstrike on the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, one of hundreds of attacks on government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years.