Israeli Government Approves Purchase of 17 more F-35s bringing the total to 50 stealth jets

Despite criticism, Israel decided to exercise the option for another 17 aircraft. And there might also be some F-35Bs at the horizon to enable the Israeli Air Force to continue operating from dispersed locations in case of attack.

On Nov. 27, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for National Security, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to purchase another 17 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft, bringing the total to 50 Lightning II jets.

The first two examples of the controversial, expensive, advanced 5th Generation aircraft, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, are expected to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF), at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel, in about three weeks.

The stealth aircraft, that the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman defined “the most advanced in the world and the best for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority,” was contracted through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program; the first 33 examples were purchased in two batches: the first one worth 2.75 billion USD and the second for 2.82 billion USD, including infrastructure, parts, and training simulators.

The Israeli F-35s will have some components contributed by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.

Although the extent of “domestic” modifications is still unknown, the IAF F-35As will be somehow different from the “standard” F-35s, as they will embed national EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. This is the reason why Israeli F-35s are sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel), as if they were a different variant from the three baseline versions (A, B and C).

For sure, the new sales represents a good promotion for Lockheed Martin, considered the fame of the Israeli Air Force, known to be one of the most advanced and very well equipped: if the F-35s were deemed to be able to meet all the requirements of a service with a really strong reputation, that has been at war for decades and has employed its combat planes to perform some really complex operations (like the air strikes on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the Syrian nuclear facility in 2007), then they should be good for most of the world air forces (some of those continue to invest in the program.)

Still, there are many, even at the Pentagon, who firmly believe that the F-35 is not suitable for combat for years to come.

By the way, the news comes few days after Canada announced the plan to use F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters as “gap fillers” until Ottawa decides on a replacement for its fleet of legacy Hornet aircraft. In fact, after investing in the program for several decades, the new Trudeau Government canceled Canada’s planned purchase of the F-35 (considered too expensive) and announced a new, forthcoming open competition for a permanent CF-18 replacement.

Anyway, it seems that the IAF might end up operating F-35Bs as well.

As we have already reported last year, talks between Israel and U.S. about a possible IAF acquisition of the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter, have started in 2015, according to some Israeli media outlets.

F-35Bs would allow the aircraft to take off and land from austere landing strips in should Iran be able to knock out IAF airbases with precision weapons.

Israel is a small country and its main airfields could be easily threatened by long-range weapons in the hands of state actors or handed over to militant movements like Hamas and Hezbollah: IAF’s only chance to continue operating in case of attack would be dispersing aircraft to remote locations, an option that would be viable only thanks to the unique F-35B STOVL capabilities.


 Image credit: Lockheed Martin



About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. To me, this is the biggest endorsement of the F-35 right here. There’s plenty of countries that are dumb and just want the latest thing. But if this thing were a total piece of crap, I just don’t believe that the Israelis would be taken in and be buying them. If the F-35 were junk, they’d be buying F-15E Strike Eagles and Block 60 F-16s.

    • You don’t know what contract the Israelis had signed in the past. Maybe they could not bail from the order and maybe there are not many alternatives to replace the aging planes they have.

      • I’ll give you props for grasping at anything you can. Countries have backed out of arms deals plenty of times. They’ve also cancelled orders on commercial aircraft.

    • I’m NOT saying the F-35 is junk because obviously it ISN’T. But in regards to Israel’s F-15s, they recently bought upgrade packages earlier this year.

    • Totally agree. The Israelis are most definitely not suckers. This blows away years of negative press or uncertainty about the F35. They have F35’s in their possession, and are now ordering more. Makes the naysayers look like crackpots now.

  2. From the Jerusalem Post dated November 29, 2016:

    Israel to regain air dominance as touchdown of F-35 jets nears

    “The future is here,” one senior IAF officer told reporters. “The F-35 will allow the Air Force to carry out missions that its current aircraft are unable to do today.”

    But, but, I read comments all the time about how Israel really wants more F-15s, but politics forces them to buy F-35s. And I read all the time how F-15 and F-16 is enough or better at doing the air combat job. That the F-35 is an overpriced lemon. Well Israel has F-15s and F-16s, but truth be told the IAF knows that their current fighter fleet is not capable of hitting targets protected by the latest Russian SAM systems. Or to maintain the combat edge in air-to-air fighting. Yet the numbskulls and nincompoops posting on the Internet talk like they know better than the IAF and various air forces around the world.

    My God their stupidity makes me shake my head in disbelief. If I’d could tell them one thing it would be to stick to things they know and leave air warfare to the requisite experts! In most cases the closest they’ve gotten to flying is perhaps a helium-filled balloon or kite they had as a kid. Military flying? Perhaps GI Joe toy planes and helicopters. Vroom! Vroom! Now they think that makes them air combat experts. Get outta here please. You guys are rank amateurs. So rank that you reek – of total and complete ignorance. How does it feel to be proven wrong around each and every turn? Given Internet anonymity, probably not too bad.

  3. “At FRP it will drop to between $80 – $85M per unit.”

    People that holler about that price don’t seem to realize that the F-15 and F-16 cost $30 million each. And that was the price 40 years ago!

    • So I just put $30 million into an inflation calculator and that is $114 million today. So the price is not far off one way or the other but the capability is a vastly better jet

  4. Historically, how many times have you heard of any country being forced to buy somebody’s aircraft? You’re nuts.

    • Actually they are required to spend a high percentage of the aid package on U.S. made products-not specific items or necessarily military but us made nonetheless.

      • The percentage is close to 90%. Israel supplies combat information and intelligence more valuable than all of NATO combined. Israel has made over 600 changes to F16/F15s So the only people who the US tax payer pays billions of dollars to are ‘palestinians’ (over $4b so far) for which they supply you with filled US body bags and celebrations when the US is successfully attacked or terrorized.

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