Israel closes deal for more US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets
Israel has finalised a deal to buy 17 more F-35 stealth fighter jets in addition to 33 of the planes already ordered, the defence ministry said on Sunday.
The aim of the purchase it to maintain Israel's military superiority in the Middle East. This comes after foe Iran welcomed the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft system, last year which many analysts believed tip the prospect of air superiority out of Israel's favour.
"The F-35 will be a key element in assuring Israel's defence both along our borders as well as far from them," Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
Israel has already received five of the jets made by US-based Lockheed Martin, the most expensive produced in history.
The next batch of the 17 F-35s will cost around $100 million each, Israel's defence ministry said, a significant reduction from the initial 33 planes which cost $110 million each.
Israel's first jets are to be operational this year.
Israel says it will be the first country outside of the United States with an operational F-35 squadron, although other countries have also ordered the planes.
The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at supersonic speed, around 1,900 kilometres per hour.
Lieberman said the deal is evidence of how deep the connection and "military relations are between the State of Israel and our great friend the United States".
The US finalised what was at the time its biggest military aid deal in history in September 2016 when it signed an agreement with Israel to hand over $38 billion over the next ten years for new weaponry.
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The US has provided a total of $127.4 billion in bilateral assistance to Israel in that time, mostly in the form of military assistance.