Israel plans to acquire an additional squadron of 25 F-35s

On September 3, 2023, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant officially requested the acquisition of a third F-35 squadron from Lockheed Martin. This move aims to increase Israel's F-35 fleet to a total of 75 aircraft.

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Israel Plans to Acquire an Additional Squadron of 25 F 35s 925 001 Israeli Air Force F-35A Lightning II multirole fighter (Picture source: Israel Defense Forces )

The formal Letter of Demand (LOD) was sent to the U.S. Joint Program Office (JPO) following an internal decision by Israel on July 2 to pursue the purchase of an additional 25 F-35 aircraft. The LOD marks the culmination of Israel's efforts to expand its F-35 capabilities.

The Defense Ministry has outlined a schedule, indicating that Israel will begin receiving three new aircraft per year starting in 2027. Earlier estimates had suggested that deliveries could start as soon as 2026. The decision to proceed with the purchase was endorsed by key Israeli military and defense officials, including IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. The deal, valued at approximately $3 billion, will be financed through U.S. aid. Lockheed Martin and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney have committed to involving Israeli defense industries in component production.

The F-35 Lightning II made its first flight on December 15, 2006, and has since been introduced into various branches of the U.S. armed forces, as well as the air forces of several other countries. Since its first flight in 2006, the F-35 has been introduced in several variants. The F-35B variant was the first to be deployed, entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps on July 31, 2015. It was followed by the F-35A variant, which was introduced into the U.S. Air Force on August 2, 2016. Most recently, the F-35C variant was commissioned into the U.S. Navy on February 28, 2019.

As a multirole fighter, the F-35 is designed to excel in a variety of missions, from air superiority to close air support and reconnaissance. Its versatility makes it valuable for the three main branches of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Navy.

Israel has also made parallel investments in its Air Force, including requests for 25 Boeing F-15 EX Combat Eagle fighters and the finalization of a deal for four Boeing KC-46A midair refueling aircraft. The acquisition of additional F-35s is a significant step in bolstering Israel's air capabilities, ensuring that the IDF remains prepared for evolving regional threats.