JERUSALEM, Israel - The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency has announced its approval of the sale of 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) to the Israeli Air Force (IAF).
The aircraft has stealth capability, can hover, and can take off vertically when it is lightly loaded or with a few hundred feet of runway when it is heavily loaded. Israeli leaders were eager to purchase the jets because it is likely that Israel's runways will be prime targets for missile attacks by its enemies in future conflicts.
The cost is estimated to be more than $15 billion, and Israel will have an option to by 50 more of the aircraft in the years ahead.
Pentagon spokesmen said the sale is necessary to ensure that Israel has "a strong and ready defense capability." The Defense Department has notified Congress of the deal. Congress has 30 days to raise objections or block the sale, but that is not expected.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington said that Israel will become the first country outside NATO to use the F-35 jets. The aircraft would be a boost to Israel's air-to-air and air-to ground defenses.
Sources: Israel Radio, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz