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Israel to form first squadron in preparation for F-35I

Israel's first Lockheed Martin F-35I (Adir) squadron will be officially established in early August, as its air force advances preparations ahead of taking delivery of the type in early 2017.

A second F-35I squadron is planned in the future, and the air force is already examining the possibility of standing up a third unit equipped with the fifth-generation fighter.

"Receiving these aircraft is a pioneering move which also includes great uncertainty," the commander of the lead F-35I squadron, identified by the service as Lt Col Yotam, told the Israeli air force website. "The challenges we will most certainly come across and deal with by ourselves will turn into knowledge that will later be conveyed to other countries. We will gain a great deal of experience."

The conventional take-off and landing F-35As that will be delivered to the service are to be equipped with some Israeli-developed systems, which the squadron technicians are already studying.

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US Air Force

In February, Israel signed a contract to purchase a second batch of 14 F-35Is, adding to a 19-aircraft deal signed in 2010. The latest commitment – worth $2.8 billion – also includes options for a further 17 fighters, which were excluded from the confirmed purchase following strong opposition from within the Israeli cabinet.

As reported by Flightglobal earlier this month, Israel is preparing a "compensation package" that it wants from the US government as a result of a multi-national agreement to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran abandoning its nuclear weapons programme.

The Israeli list is expected to include the 17 additional F-35Is, plus Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor transports, Boeing KC-46A tankers and bunker-busting bombs that have until now not been exported by Washington.

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