Israel seeks to obtain another squadron of America’s fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 fighter jet, as negotiations are underway between Washington and Tel Aviv to expand the regime's military capabilities.
Discussions between Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli minister of military affairs, and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter have now expanded to include F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing jets in the US military package to Israel, Israel’s Hebrew-language Walla website reported on Sunday.
The F-35, the B variant “is designed to operate from austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near frontline combat zones. It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases,” according to US defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
The F-35B fighter aircraft only recently came into service in the US Air Force.
Tel Aviv has so far bought 33 F-35A model aircraft, and is now mulling to purchase 17 more.
The United States increased its military aid package to Israel in the wake of a historic nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany - in July.
The aid package reportedly includes extra funding for the development of missile defense systems, as well as another squadron of F-35 fighter jets. The delivery of the first batch of the jets will start by the end of 2016 and will continue to 2021. Israel would be the only possessor in the Middle East of America’s fifth-generation aircraft.
Under the current agreement between Israel and the US, which went into effect in 2009, Tel Aviv receives $3 billion a year in aid, most of which is used to buy American military hardware, such as jets and components for missile defense.