Israel is to acquire a second batch of 14 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, after the nation’s cabinet approved the purchase on 30 November.
One aircraft from the new batch will be a test asset, which will help during the development and integration of Israeli-dedicated systems for the type.
The decision also includes an option for a future procurement of another 17 aircraft, pending later approval.
Israel's second contract was approved in principle when defence minister Moshe Ya’alon met his then-US counterpart Chuck Hagel in Washington DC recently. Previous reports suggested the nation had been planning to order 25 aircraft in this batch.
The Israeli air force has already secured national approval to purchase an initial batch of 19 conventional take-off and landing F-35As for $2.75 billion. Ordered as part of the US programme's eighth lot of low-rate initial production, the first two aircraft from this batch are due to arrive in Israel by early 2017, with the rest to follow through 2018. Preparations to introduce the type are already under way atNevatim air base in southern Israel.
Meanwhile, since signing a contract with Lockheed Martin in April 2013 for production of wings for the F-35, Israel Aerospace Industries has invested in the advanced systems and technologies required for the aerostructures’ production. A state-of-the-art automated production line has been established at IAI's main campus in order to meet the F-35 stealth design.
The company will make its first deliveries in mid-2015 under the 10- to 15-year arrangement, which it values at a potential $2.5 billion.