TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet on Sunday evening unanimously approved the purchase of another 17 F-35I fighters, boosting the strength of Israel's stealth force to 50.
The brief Nov. 27 announcement by Netanyahu's office did not include costs of the package, but defense and industry sources say the package will exceed $2.5 billion, including support equipment.
The Cabinet-approved purchase marks the third tranche of US-built stealth fighters by Lockheed Martin Corp. Congress and the US Administration have pre-approved Israel for the purchase of 75 single-engine stealth fighters.
Israel initially ordered 19 aircraft in 2010 under a $2.7 billion package, the first two of which are scheduled to arrive here in the coming weeks. That initial package was followed by a $2.82 billion follow-on order in February 2015 for another 14 planes.
The third order approved Sunday evening will bring Israel's acquisition commitment to 50 aircraft.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.