Israel approves buying 25 new F-35 stealth fighter jets

F-35Is at Nevatim Air Force Base in southern Israel. (Source: Israeli Air Force)

Israel has approved buying a third squadron of advanced F-35 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin in a $3 billion deal, the defense ministry said on Sunday.

Israel is the only Middle East nation with F-35s, the world’s most advanced fighter which is stealth capable and can be used to gather intelligence, strike deep into enemy territory and engage in air duels.

The deal to purchase 25 F-35 jets — expected to be signed in coming months — will expand the country’s fleet of the aircraft to 75, a ministry statement said.

The third fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion that will be financed through US military aid, according to the Israeli military.

“This new agreement will ensure the continuation of cooperation between American companies and Israeli defence industries in the production of aircraft parts,” the statement said.

In May 2018, Israel’s military said it had become the first country to use F-35s in combat.

Israel was the first country outside the United States to acquire the F-35, and remains the only country in the Middle East to have the advanced weapon in its arsenal.

The country has launched hundreds of air raids on Syrian territory during that country’s years of war, primarily targeting Iran-backed forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as well as Syrian army positions.

On Sunday, hours before Israel announced the F-35 plan, it said it had struck an anti-aircraft battery in Syria in response to the launch of an anti-aircraft rocket from Syria into Israeli territory.

It added that Israeli jets had also “struck additional targets in the area”, and that no injuries were reported from the Syrian missile.

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