Israel Defense Ministry has completed the acquisition process of an additional 17 F-35 stealth jets.
The initial decision to purchase the 17 additional F-35 fighters was made by the security cabinet in November 2016, but it took an additional nine months to settle out the agreement with the United States and Lockheed Martin, various media reported Monday.
The purchase was part of a larger deal to buy a total of 50 F-35 planes. Israel is currently in possession of five F-35 stealth fighters, the first of them delivered in December 2016 and it was decided then that the air force will continue to receive the remaining 45 in small batches over the next few years. The five F-35s are amidst "absorption process" and are expected to become operational by the end of 2017.
The deal was signed over the weekend, following the US cabinet decision from November 2016, which approved the purchase.
The Ministry said that due to the lower price, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will consider buying more planes, expanding the fleet from two squadrons, as currently planned, to three squadrons.
Dubi Lavi, the head of the Defense Ministry’s delegation to the US, said that this was the third major acquisition of the F-35 “Adir” in the past decade and that in this transaction Lockheed Martin was able to reduce the average price of each plane to less than $100 million.
In the first deal Israel purchased 19 F-35s at a cost of $125m., and a second deal of 14 jets saw Jerusalem pay $112m. per plane. The cost of the plane is expected to drop to around $80m. in the coming years.
In 2011, Israel and Washington signed a Memorandum of Understandings, in which the US committed to enabling Israel to buy 75 F-35s.
The fighter is fitted with radar evasion capability, and enabled with supersonic travel at Mach 1.6 (around 1,900 kilometers per hour), while the pilot can avail himself of thermal, night, and 360-degree vision.