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Israel launches procurement of third operational F-35 squadron

With 50 F-35I Adir combat aircraft already ordered across two operational squadrons, Israel is to acquire 25 more aircraft to equip a third unit. (Israeli Air Force)

Israel has begun the formal process of acquiring a third squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35I Adir combat aircraft, with the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announcing governmental approval for the buy on 3 September.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) already fields the F-35I (a national-specific version of the F-35A) with 140 Squadron ‘Golden Eagle' and 116 Squadron ‘Defenders of the South' squadrons at Nevatim Air Base (also known as 28 Air Base) in southern Israel's Negev Desert (117 Squadron is the type's training unit). A third, as yet unnamed, unit is to be stood up using an additional 25 aircraft to the 50 already ordered. The IAF has not disclosed its basing plans for the third F-35I squadron.

“Following the approval of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Defense Ministry Director General Major General (reserve) Eyal Zamir, the Defense Ministry's procurement delegation in the US submitted a formal request for procurement ([letter of request] LOR) to the American F-35 Administration ([Joint Program Office] JPO) in order to complete the approval and signing of the deal in the coming months,” the MoD said.

As noted in the announcement, the deal is valued at an estimated USD3 billion. The follow-on aircraft will be delivered from 2027 at a rate of three per year, with all 75 aircraft with the IAF and the third squadron fully stood up by the end of 2035.

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