Israel has ordered 20 of the fifth-generation fighters in 2010 and is now contemplating to buy 20 more despite growing cost and delays in delivery.
As part of a multi-year program to strengthen Israel’s defense, the government is expected to approve the order of a second batch of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets later this month. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) will get a second F-35 squadron as part of the program named Oz (Hebrew for Strength), bringing the total number to 40.
The deal for the first 20 fighters was worth $ 2.75 billion, delivery is expected for 2017. Last year the IDF decided on a modernization program for part of it’s fleet of F-16 because of the repeated delays in the development of the new aircraft, so the plan to place another order for the F-35 somewhat comes as a surprise.
Because of the steadily rising cost of the plane it is not even sure that the Israeli Air Force will really receive 20 planes in the first batch.
The F-35 (also knows as Joint Strike Fighter – JSF) will replace some of the older F-15 and F-16 in the Israeli Air Force. According to Flightglobal‘s Word Air Forces 2011, Israel currently operates 243 fighter aircraft (42 F-15A/C, 25 F-15I, 76 F-16C and 100 F-16I), but with the latest procurement of 72 improved F-15 and an option for 72 more Eurofighter Typhoon by Saudi Arabia, Israel feels the need to follow suit.
Another lingering threat is Iran, slowly working its way toward nuclear capability. So despite a shrinking defense budget, Israel is willing to invest serious money into new long-range striking assets like the Dolphin-class submarines and the F-35.
The cost for a F-35A (the conventional take-off and landing variant) is at the moment $ 113 million, but with the long history of cost overruns it remains to be seen what the price tag will be when the aircraft is finally ready to be delivered to the eleven prospective customers (US, UK, Canada, Japan, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Turkey, Australia and Denmark)