Purchase finalized for 17 more F-35 stealth fighter jets
Defense Ministry concludes deal with Lockheed Martin on the purchase of additional aircraft, bringing the total to 50 planes, with the average cost per plane dropping to $100 million; Lieberman: jets are 'significant and strategic addition of strength to air force.'
The Ministry of Defense's acquisition team signed the agreement in the United States with director of the US government's JSF program, making use of the option to purchase 17 more jets, which was approved by the Security Cabinet in its role as the ministerial committee on procurement.
According to the contract, the planes' delivery will be completed by December 2024.
"This is the third deal for F-35 purchases the Ministry of Defense has penned in the past decade alone," said Dubi Lavie, the head of the Israeli delegation to the US.
"With every series of jets coming off the production line, the American manufacturer has committed to bringing the price for an individual plane down," Lavie added. "We're happy to announce that on this particular deal, the American project manager has successfully negotiated with the manufacturing company to bring down the average per-plane price to below $100 million. This is a significant reduction compared to the planes Israel has brought thus far."
In the first deal, Israel paid $125 million per plane for 19 F-35s in total. In the second deal, the price went down to $112 million per plane for 14 jets. Israel expects the price to drop below $90 million per plane when it approaches the US again for planes for a third flight squadron.
This price reduction came after the Pentagon ordered 50 new jets from manufacturer Lockheed Martin. F-35 jets are considered to be more expensive for the Israeli Air Force compared to those purchased by the US Air Force due to the number of unique systems installed onboard the planes as per the operational requirements made by the IDF.
The prices of these planes were severely criticized by US President Donald Trump, who tweeted a month after going into office that "The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20."
Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman praised the signing of the deal, saying the purchase of "17 additional F-35 fighter jets is a significant and strategic addition of strength to the air force."
"The F-35 squadrons are the pinnacle of technology, and will assist the IDF and air force in meeting the many security challenges Israel faces head-on. They are a central aspect in protecting the safety of the people of Israel along the country's borders and even away from them," he added.
The Ministry of Defense has purchased a total of 50 F-35A jets from the advanced fifth-generation. Five jets have already been delivered, and by 2021 Israel is set to receive 33 more from previous deals.
The fifth-generation fighter jet, also called a Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), is manufactured in three versions: the A model for normal takeoff and landing, the B model for short takeoff and vertical landing and the C model for operations launched from aircraft carriers.
All 50 planes the Ministry of Defense procured for the air force are of the A model but were integrated with unique capabilities and advanced Israeli weapon systems.