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Israel weighing interest in STOVL-variant F-35

New threats faced by Israel have placed the potential purchase of short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant Lockheed Martin F-35Bs as a high priority.

Discussions are under way, with Israel's defence ministry hoping to reach a decision before a new 10-year Foreign Military Financing agreement with the USA comes into effect in 2019.

Deliveries of conventional take-off and landing F-35Is to the Israeli air force continue, with the service having so far placed orders for 50 examples. The “Golden Eagle” squadron which operates the "Adir" and the air force's flight test squadron continue to adapt the stealth fighter to meet the nation's specific requirements, with this work including the addition of a number of Israeli-developed systems.

Israel's initial requirement was for 75 F-35s, and the need to replace older Boeing F-15 fighters – the oldest of which were delivered in 1976 – is becoming a high-priority issue.

Sources indicate that the Israeli air force will have to choose between obtaining additional F-35s – potentially including STOVL examples – or an advanced version of the F-15. No details have been revealed of the potential F-15 variant on which evaluations are being based, but this is expected to be capable of carrying an expanded weapons load.

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