The Knesset Finance Committee today approved the purchase of 20 F-35 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft from the US - the largest arms deal in Israel's history. The purchase of the aircraft, the most advanced in the world, will cost $2.75 billion, or $96 million per aircraft. The deal also includes spare parts, maintenance costs, and simulators. The F-35 is able to attack distant targets without being detected by radar. Delivery of the first aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2015.
The Knesset Finance Committee gave the Ministry of Defense permission to make a commitment to Lockheed Martin for the purchase of the aircraft. The Knesset Finance Committee convened despite the summer recess, at the request of the Ministry of Defense and in order to push the deal through more rapidly. Last Thursday the ministerial defense committee had approved the deal following presentations by Commander on Chief o the Israel Air Force Ido Nehoshtan, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and the director general of the Ministry of Defense, General (res.) Udi Shani.
Shani stressed that the F-35 is the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world which "is very interesting for us.'
Talking to the Knesset Finance Committee today senior members of the defense establishment said that despite the high cost of the aircraft, no other clauses in the state budget will be harmed because a large proportion of the deal will be financed by US government military assistance.
The IDF chief of staff's economic advisor said that $150 million from the defense budget will be allocated for the purchase of the F-35s spread over eight years.
Uri Shani said that Israel may request to buy additional F-35s in the future. Sources in the Defense Ministry believe that Israel may eventually want as many as 75 F-35s. Shani said that the aircraft would help Israel meet relevant threats in the coming decade but did not specifically mention the Iranian nuclear threat.
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