JERUSALEM (AP) —
Israel will buy 25 F-35 jets from the United States, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday, as part of a deal that increases Israel’s arsenal of stealth fighter jets by 50 percent.
The F-35 is the most advanced fighter jet in the world and Israel is the only country in the Middle East to fly them. The $3 billion purchase, which increases Israel’s fleet of F-35 jets from 50 to 75, is expected to be finalized in the coming months, the ministry said.
He said the deal would be funded by US military aid to Israel and that the plane’s maker, Lockheed Martin, and its engine maker, Pratt & Whitney, had pledged to involve Israeli companies in the production process.
“The new agreement will ensure continued cooperation between American companies and Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft parts,” the statement said.
The decision to expand Israel’s arsenal comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Iran. Israel, which regards Iran as its greatest enemy, has already used F-35 planes to shoot down iranian dronesand threatened to carry out a long-range strike on Iranian nuclear targets.
Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon – a charge Iran denies – and is believed to be behind a series of attacks on Iranian nuclear experts and facilities in Iran over the years.
Israel, which has sought to counter Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria, carried out an airstrike on the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, one of hundreds to strike government-held parts of Syria in recent years.