Israel is likely to order 12 to 15 in the purchase of a second squadron of advanced F-35 fighter jets from the US as against the earlier deal of 31 aircrafts, local media reported.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz was quoted as saying by Haaretz, Israeli daily earlier this month that “the money for the highly-touted deal should instead be spent developing Israel’s drone force and buying more relatively inexpensive rockets that can be launched from the air, sea, or land.”
Yuval was backed by Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir, a former junior general in the air force, and apparently Finance Minister Yair Lapid who spoke against the deal.
The deal would eat nearly Israel’s entire annual US aid package. Lapid has called in the past for belt-tightening in the military as part of larger national austerity measures.
Among the arguments against the deal is that the multitude of enemy rockets that could target Israel’s airfields means the country shouldn’t rely too heavily on its combat aircraft. Israeli ministers believe the nearly $3 billion needed for the deal could be put to better use.
Israel had bought 19 F-35s for $2.75 billion in 2010, with delivery scheduled between 2016 and 2018.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had agreed a preliminary deal for 25 to 31 fighters during his visit to the US last month. The deal for the new squadron still needs government approval.