Israel's air force is due to receive its next two Lockheed Martin F-35Is before the end of this week, boosting its fleet of the type to nine. The aircraft will touch down at Nevatim air base in the south of the country.
The head of the Israeli air force's aircraft department, identified only as Col H, tells FlightGlobal that the service will soon face a decision on whether to purchase additional F-35s on top of the 50 that it has already committed to. The potential acquisition of further examples to equip a third squadron will be put to the nation's cabinet next year.
The air force is currently working to expand the F-35I's flight envelope in testing, while some Israeli-developed equipment has also been installed. "We are very pleased with the performance of the aircraft," says Col H.
A dedicated test aircraft will be added in 2019 to support future updates, and deliveries of its currently planned 50-strong fleet will be completed in 2027.
Israeli sources indicate that Iran's efforts to gain more influence in countries such as Lebanon and Syria make the purchase of additional F-35Is more urgent, and that the decreasing price of the US-built type will be one of the main factors informing such a decision.
Meanwhile, Lockheed recently delivered a full mission simulator for the F-35 to Nevatim air base, along with similar devices to additional international customers Italy, Japan and Norway.