Israel to buy more F-35 fighter jets from US. Deal expands fleet by 50% and deepens partnership

Israel to buy more F-35 fighter jets from US. Deal expands fleet by 50% and deepens partnership

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JERUSALEM (AP) _

Israel will buy 25 F-35 aircraft from the United States, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced Sunday, in a deal that increases Israel’s arsenal of the stealth fighter jets by 50%.

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The F-35 is the world’s most advanced fighter jet, and Israel is the only country in the Middle East to fly them. The $3 billion purchase, which increases the Israeli fleet of F-35 jets from 50 to 75, is set to be finalized in the coming months, the ministry said.

It said the deal would be financed through American military aid to Israel and that the maker of the plane, Lockheed Martin, and the maker of its engine, Pratt & Whitney, had committed to involving Israeli companies in the production process.

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“The new agreement will ensure the continuation of cooperation between American companies and Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft parts,” the statement read.

The move to expand the Israeli arsenal comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Iran. Israel, which considers Iran its greatest enemy, has previously used F-35 jets to shoot down Iranian drones, and has threatened to carry out a long-range strike on Iranian nuclear targets.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon–a charge Iran denies–and is believed to be behind a string of attacks on Iranian nuclear experts and facilities inside Iran over the years.

Israel, which has sought to counter Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria, conducted an airstrike on the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, one of hundreds of strikes on government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years.

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