Officials from Israel and the USA have reached an agreement that will see the Middle Eastern country purchase additional Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters.

Israel will add 25 aircraft to its existing F-35 fleet under the latest $3 billion deal, bringing its total inventory to 75 fighters. The agreement was inked in Washington DC this week, where senior officials from the Israeli defence ministry, the Pentagon, US state department and the White House met.

“The Israeli Ministry of Defense has signed an agreement with the US government for the third squadron of the “Adir” (F-35) aircraft, which will be integrated into the Israel Defense Forces,” Tel Aviv said on 4 June.

The Israeli air force (IAF) currently operates two squadrons of specially configured F-35As, designated locally as the F-35I Adir. Cirium data suggests the country currently has 39 of the jets in service, six more on order and options for an additional five examples. Those figures do not include the latest order.

Delivery of the first tranche of Israel’s new fighters is expected in 2028.

Israeli air force F-35I

Source: Israeli Ministry of Defense

The Israeli air force currently operates two combat squadrons of the F-35I “Adir”, an Israel-specific version of the conventional take-off and landing A-model variant

Lockheed says only that it is “pleased” by the Israeli government’s decision to acquire more aircraft.

A supplemental Israeli F-35 order had been discussed as far back as 2017, when the IAF declared initial operational capability on its first examples of the single-engined stealth fighter.

Israel firmed up those plans in 2023, when the defence ministry stated its intent to acquire 25 more aircraft. However, domestic political wrangling over funding, as well as negotiations with US officials over the terms of the export deal, had held up a formal agreement until now.

In 2023, the Israeli defence ministry said Lockheed and F-35 propulsion supplier Pratt & Whitney had already committed to “involving Israeli defence industries” in the production of aircraft components on the IAF jets.

The Pentagon has an ongoing halt on new F-35 deliveries, while prime contractor Lockheed works to certify a new technical configuration of the jet known as TR-3. That package includes a new flight computer and updated operating software.

Although that system continues to face unsolved technical issues, Lockheed says its preparing a scaled down version that could be approved for use in the coming weeks, with deliveries resuming shortly thereafter.