The new F-35I jets will bring the total “Adir” fleet of the Israeli Air Force to 75 aircraft.
The Israeli Air Force will add another F-35I squadron purchasing an additional 25 “Adir” jets (as the customized F-35As operated by the IAF is designated) to the 50 already in service with the 140 Sqn “Golden Eagle” and 116 Sqn “Defenders of the South” based at Nevatim AB (Air Base), in the Negev Desert. Both the 140th and 116th Squadrons, that make up the “Adir Division”, previously operated the F-16A/B “Netz” (Hawk), a type that was retired after 36 years of service in December 2016.
While an option for additional 25 F-35s has been public for several years, the Israeli Air Force has never disclosed its basing plans for the third Adir squadron.
“Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant has approved the recommendation proposed by the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Director General of the Israel Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Eyal Zamir, and Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, to procure a third F-35 squadron for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF),” Israel’s MoD said in a public statement on Sept. 3, 2023.
“Following the Minister of Defense’s approval, the IMOD Mission to the USA will issue an official letter of request (LOR) to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office (JPO). This step will facilitate the approval and signing of the transaction in the coming months.”
Interestingly, the Ministry estimates that the value of the deal is about 3B U.S. dollars, which will be financed by U.S. security aid funds to Israel.
“The value of the deal is approximately $3 billion, financed by American aid funds. As part of the original agreement between the governments, the aircraft’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, have committed to involving Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft components sold.”
The first three jets of the new squadron are expected to arrive in Israel in 2027. Deliveries will continue with three aircraft per year until 2035.
The first F-35s for Israel were delivered on Dec. 12, 2016.