Israel’s Defense Ministry sent a formal letter of request to the US saying it seeks to procure an additional 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets, the ministry announced on Sunday.
The letter paves the way for the formal signing of a contract. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the purchase on the recommendation of Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi in July.
According to the ministry, delivery of the aircraft will begin in 2027 at a rate of three planes each year.
At the completion of the deal, Israel would have 75 of the advanced jets to make up three squadrons.
The aircraft will cost around $3 billion and be financed by US military aid, the ministry said.
The jets are manufactured by the Maryland-based Lockheed Martin while the engines are built by the Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney.
Both companies will cooperate with Israeli companies in production. Israel is known to have made specific modifications to its F-35 fleet to meet operational requirements and enhance its capabilities. These modifications are often classified but they are believed to include changes to avionics and electronic warfare systems, and integration with Israeli-made munitions.
In 2016, Israel and the U.S. signed a 10-year, $38 billion memorandum of understanding providing a framework for military assistance. The assistance primarily comes through the U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program and the U.S. Department of Defense’s share in the financing of joint projects such as missile defense systems.
Israel has already 36 F-35s out of the 50 it originally ordered. That order is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
The jet’s stealth technology reduces its radar cross-section and makes it difficult for enemy radar systems to detect. It also has a reduced infrared signature, making it less visible to heat-seeking missiles.
The aircraft was first used in combat in 2018 by the Israel Air Force.